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Fire damages Notre Dame Cathedral. TRANSCRIPT: 4/15/19. The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Doug Stern, James Martin, Meredith Cohen, Ryan Goodman, Ron Klain

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

And that really was an extraordinary interview.  I want to get your reaction to the discussion you started which is a discussion I believe we have never seen before in presidential campaign history about the challenge of coming out and what that -- what was your reaction to Pete Buttigieg`s explanation to you about why it was so much slower a process for him than it was for you. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  It`s weird because he`s sitting right here.  But I`ll tell you that -- I`ll give you my response as if that`s not true. 

You know, I think that there is a conversation that happens among gay people that is different than a conversation that happens among straight people when it comes to people coming out.  It`s not about homophobia.  It`s that gay people, for straight people, gay people have nothing interesting going on in terms of their sexual orientation until they come out.  And then the act of coming out is a notable thing. 

If you`re, you know, if you`re pro gay rights and supportive of your gay brothers and sisters that`s seen as a positive thing.  And that`s the first time you think about it.  Among gay people, what we live before we come out is a time of being closeted, and being closeted is an active thing.  It`s not an absence of something else that straight people can`t notice. 

And I don`t exactly know.  I`m sure there`s ways in which I`m being politically incorrect by bringing this up, particularly with the presidential candidate.  But for somebody who put his marriage at the center of his campaign and talks so much what that means in terms of his hope for the country and evolving values, I do think it`s interesting to try to define what is otherwise seen as negative space. 

I mean, for me coming out was an inability to live as a closeted person.  He lived as a closeted person for a longer period of time.  Everybody`s path to getting there is different.  I wanted to talk to him about how he got there. 

So, I don`t know if that was the wrong thing to ask but it was my burning question about that element of his campaign. 

O`DONNELL:  And I think that`s what you have to ask.  You know, it`s so interesting because we do -- you and I do this very differently.  All I care about is policy, presidential policy, when you`re in the Oval Office, what will you sign, what you veto. 

  And you find out much more about the person than I do.  I`m relying on you to do that.  It`s kind of why I`m working in another space.  It`s one of the reasons I work in another space with them. 

And I think the fact that you were trying to get inside what that experience is, what that formative experience is lives in a long traditional of candidate interviews in which in a variety of ways people are trying to get inside the experience of that person and what it was like growing up in a certain way or what it was like in military service in combat. 

And that issue, that what is inside this person is something that presidential campaign interviewers have been pursuing for decades. 

MADDOW:  Well, yes.  I wouldn`t put your money on me as like the humanity are here.  I`m not the person great with the personal questions.  It`s not usually my thing. 

But I do feel like if you`re going to go the distance in a presidential campaign , if you`re going to get anywhere near the nomination, you are going to be and you ought to be subject to multiple full body MRIs.  And that includes your soul, and that includes your evolution, and that includes the places in which you`ve faced dark times and made hard decisions and come out the other side with a story to tell. 

And so, some of that is policy and some of that is values and some is how you`ve chosen to live.  So, I mean, I think with all of these guys particularly there`s going to be 500,000 of them running in the Democratic campaign, we`ll have to figure out how to ask all of them everything all the time. 

O`DONNELL:  OK.  So, final question for you. 


O`DONNELL:  I don`t know if it`s quick.

Was it difficult for you to decide whether to ask that question? 

MADDOW:  Yes.  In part because I felt like I have to -- I had to preface it with here`s the thing about me which I`m allergic to.  So, that made it hard to ask.  But I also learned a bunch about him so I think it was worth it. 

O`DONNELL:  Rachel, it really was worth it.  We really appreciate it. 

MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

Well, we have much to cover now in this hour.  The Mueller report we now know, the redacted version of the Mueller report will be released on Thursday.  That`s the breaking news from the Justice Department this morning.  We have known that since this morning. 

We also have campaign news to cover tonight, Rachel`s extraordinary interview.  Bernie Sanders appearing on Fox News.  Bernie Sanders releasing his tax returns today. 

Kamala Harris releasing 15 years of tax returns this weekend.  Much to cover in the presidential campaign.

And then of course, there is the tragedy in Paris today.  At the end of this hour, I`m going to take some personal time at the end of this hour to talk about what is at stake in the rebuilding of the Notre Dame Cathedral.  The president of France vowed to rebuild today. 

We will consider what was lost today and we will do that through the eyes of Kenneth Clark.  Kenneth Clark was the most esteemed art historian of the 20th century.  He produced and narrated a series on the BBC and a book that came out at the same time in 1969 entitled "Civilization," nothing less than the history of civilization.  And the place where Kenneth Clark stood to speak the first words of the story of human civilization was in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.  We will hear those words from Kenneth Clark at the end of this hour, and consider what we lost today and what we have to achieve in the rebuilding. 

Notre Dame Cathedral was open to tourist visitors today from 10:00 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.  That was the official schedule. 

About 15 minutes after the closing time as the final tourists were being ushered out of the cathedral, and as the worker who have been refurbishing the cathedral were mostly out of the building, the first plumes of smoke were seen rising from the roof of the cathedral, the catastrophe that followed happened fast. 

Suddenly, during lunch hour here on East Coast, we were all seeing images of the flames pushing through the roof of the 800-year-old cathedral.  At 7:07 p.m. Paris time, "Reuters" reported the first sight of flames and for the next agonizing hour it seemed nothing could slow down those flames.  Hundreds of firefighters converged on the scene. 

When the flames reached the spire on the top of the cathedral, the blaze quickly raced to the top of that spire and then we watched disoriented, not knowing why the fire couldn`t be contained, not knowing what would happen next. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m not sure what that means for the monumental towers but I can see the back of them. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, my goodness.  There it is falling. 

Michael, so you know, we are looking -- oh, my gosh -- at video right now.  The images.  Wow.  Wow. 

That is just like a dagger to the heart of Paris to see that happen.  It`s just -- that`s remarkable. 


O`DONNELL:  And the world went speechless.  An hour after the fire started, the spire fell, and minutes after that, at 8:00 p.m., Paris time, the entire roof collapsed.  After that total collapse of what was left of that -- we were not sure what would be left of the cathedral, anything seemed possible. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Liz, I`m going to interrupt you with a sobering bit of news.  The French Interior Ministry, an official from the French Interior Ministry now says firefighters may not be able to save the cathedral. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is from a ministry official, firefighters may not be able to save the Notre Dame Cathedral.  It`s hard to even process that even as we`re watching it, it`s hard to process. 



O`DONNELL:  French President Emmanuel Macron arrived at the scene and tweeted this statement: Notre Dame is aflame.  Great emotion for the whole nation.  Our thoughts go to all Catholics.  And to the French people, like all of my fellow citizens I am sad to see there part of us burn tonight.

The fire continued to spread while some first responders tried to salvage priceless works of art from inside.  Parisians came together and prayed.


O`DONNELL:  Finally, at 10:55:00 p.m., Paris time, the police chief announced that the cathedral`s main structure including the two bell towers that frame the entryway have been saved.  French officials say that no one was killed in the fire.  But say one firefighter was seriously injured. 

These photographs show the altar of the cathedral has President Macron surveyed the damage. 

President Macron then vowed to rebuild. 


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator):  Notre Dame of Paris is our history, our literature, our imagination.  It`s a place where our big historical moments, plagues, wars, liberation.  It is at the very heart of our lives.  With pride, I tell you tonight that we will rebuild this cathedral all together. 


O`DONNELL:  Joining us now is NBC News foreign correspondent Matt Bradley from Paris. 

Matt, the latest from Paris. 

MATT BRADLEY, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Lawrence, no one died in this incident but this is still a city in mourning as you mentioned, we`ve been standing here for a couple hours.  There were just ordinary Parisians lining the sidewalks, lining the River Seine, singing hymns. 

And really, one of the things that`s been standing out every time one of the fire engines goes by, the crowd erupts in applause.  And for people here, they`re the ones who stood between the massive destruction that has already been inflicted on this cathedral and total destruction and really that was on precipice of that.  As you mentioned, the interior minister warning earlier this evening they might not be able to save this cathedral. 

But as you can see behind me, the cathedral is still structurally relatively sound.  And so, they`re able to rebuild.  That`s a real feeling of hope that`s pervading everything here in Paris because this is central not just to Catholics, it`s central to all of French culture. 

You know, it`s interesting when the road signs outside of Paris when they measured the distance to Paris, this is ground zero.  This plaza in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral is the point at which they measure all distances to Paris.  So, it`s central to everybody here whether you`re religious or not -- Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  Matt Bradley, thank you very much for joining us live from Paris.  We appreciate it. 

We`re joined now by Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor-at- large of "American Magazine", a leading publication of Catholic ideas. 

Also joining us is Doug Stern, who`s a Cincinnati firefighter for 23 years. 

Meredith Cohen as well.  She`s a UCLA professor of medieval art and architecture.  She`s an expert on Notre Dame Cathedral.

And, Father Martin, I want to start with you.  I know you spent a great deal of time just across the street here in St. Patrick`s Cathedral.  We just heard the phrase ground zero used for where the cathedral is in French maps.  But we also heard that phrase here in New York City.  We see that spire falling and there feels like an emotional echo when we see something falling in flames like that after what we saw here on 9/11. 

JAMES MARTIN, JESUIT PRIEST:  Well, I felt the same way.  When I saw the spire collapse, I was immediately transported back to 9/11.  I was here in New York City and watching some of the buildings come down and just how devastating that was. 

I would imagine this is kind of like 9/11 for France, certainly for the church in France.  It`s a sort of multivalent symbol.  It`s a symbol of Catholic France.  It`s a symbol of France itself.  In many ways, it`s a symbol of European Catholicism, too.  I can`t think of another church outside of St. Peter`s that is that iconic. 

O`DONNELL:  And great work done by the first responders making sure there were no fatalities which, of course, is the incalculable difference between this and 9/11. 

Doug Stern, you`re with the International Association of Firefighters.  It is in fact an international association.  You fought fires for 23 years in Cincinnati. 

We were all wondering, we don`t have your expertise and wondering as we watched this why isn`t the fire being put out?  If we can see the fire, why can`t we get the needed water on it, why can`t we get what it needs to stop?  What was it that made this so difficult to contain and finally stop? 

DOUG STERN, FORMER FIREFIGHTER:  There already several reasons, Lawrence.  One is just the volume of fire first of all.  By the time the firefighters got there, in a building that size of that age, the fire had a pretty good head start. 

The second reason was they prioritized what they could do.  And I really think a lot of the reason that that cathedral is still standing this evening is because the firefighters took the appropriate measures, they got ahead of the fire and they stopped it before it could get farther.  Had they not taken that approach, it`s entirely possible that they could have lost those bell towers as the fire progressed through the entire building. 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to something that former New York Fire Commissioner Thomas Van Essen told Brian Williams this afternoon during our live coverage. 


THOMAS VON ESSEN, FORMER NEW YORK FIRE COMISSIONER:  These places are like lumber yards in the eaves and the outside roof is misleading because it`s stone or copper.  The inside ceiling, you think it`s plaster.  But in between is a tremendous amount of lumber if it gets going, you know, you`re going to having a real tough time putting it out. 

And that`s what they ran noon today.  They didn`t get it out fast enough. 


O`DONNELL:  And, Professor Cohen, he was actually talking about his own experience crawling around the eaves of St. Patrick`s Cathedral here in Manhattan and he was supposing that it was something similar inside Notre Dame. 

PROF. MEREDITH COHEN, EXPERT IN FRENCH ARCHITECTURE:  Yes, Notre Dame has a timber truss roof, part of which dates back to the 13th century when it was first finished, much of which also was 19th century.  Nevertheless, it`s a huge loss to lose that. 

O`DONNELL:  And Professor, what do you make of the promise to rebuild and what can be rebuilt? 

COHEN:  Well, I think the first thing that will need to be done is they`ll need to survey the state of the stonewalls because they will have been damaged by the heat of the fire.  So, they`ll have to you know assess the damage, the walls, the possible stained glass and then question, you know, what to rebuild and how. 

And then the question is about the spire.  What`s lost is lost.  You can`t rebuild the past.  So you can make effective you know, reproduction of the past or you can make something new.  But you can`t reproduce what`s been lost. 

O`DONNELL:  Father Martin, when you saw those images of the altar of the cathedral, what was your feeling when you saw that? 

MARTIN:  After the fire had been put out or sort of tamped down that there`s a great cymbal symbol of hope there.  You know, Easter season is coming.  The message of Easter is that suffering is never the last word and that there`s always hope.  So, I was very hopeful. 

I think the fact they were able to save so much of it is a blessing. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Professor Cohen, we can think of is as a church, a cathedral and also as a museum.  If you look at it from a museum perspective, what has been lost? 

COHEN:  Well, the spire is an important emblem of 19th century restoration of gothic revivalism in a way and of the preservation of the medieval past of Paris and France.  That`s certainly been lost. 

We are really fortunate that the main structure hasn`t been lost.  Some of the oldest things but nevertheless the roof, 13th century timber truss and the spire are gone and cannot be replaced. 

I`m not sure that the glass been gone.  It looks like some of the vaults have been destroyed.  So, that`s 13th century, 12th and 13th century know- how that we`ve lost permanently. 

O`DONNELL:  Doug Stern, what has to be established within that structure before any real rebuilding working even begin to take place? 

STERN:  I think the first thing they have to do is look at the exterior walls and make sure it`s safe to enter the building so there`s no further chance of a collapse rather.  The one thing I will say is going into that structure when it was on fire to save the heirlooms and artifacts they were able to save really speaks volumes about what those firefighters were able to do. 

If you look at some of the damage, there`s no doubt while they were in there trying to save everything they could, there was debris falling from the top of the roof all the way down to the floor they were at.  The fact that there was only one firefighter injured really speaks volumes to the dedication and the fact that they did what they had to do in a safe manner.  But they saved quite a bit as they were doing it. 

O`DONNELL:  Really heroic work. 

Doug Stern, Father James Martin, and, Professor Meredith Cohen, thank you all for starting us off tonight on this tragic subject.  We really appreciate it. 

And when we come back, we now know the William Barr edited redacted version of the Mueller report will be publicly released on Thursday.  But, today, Congress actually has been continuing its investigative methods of President Trump in the form of subpoenas to a bank and an accounting firm that have done business with the president.  That`s coming up next. 

And in presidential campaign news, we just saw Rachel`s extraordinary interview with presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.  We will talk more about that later in this hour. 

And at the end of the hour, a special last word about what was lost today and what is at stake in the rebuilding of Notre Dame Cathedral. 



O`DONNELL:  We`re now three days away from the release of Attorney General William Barr`s redacted version of the Mueller report.  And tonight, "The New York Times" has breaking news related to the investigation. 

"The New York Times" is reporting, quote: Congressional investigators on Monday issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and numerous other banks seeking information about President Trump`s finances and the lender`s business dealings with Russian, according to several people with knowledge of the investigation.

The redacted version of the Mueller report now scheduled to be released on Thursday should have you much to say or at least something to say about that.  We`re not sure about how much of that will be redacted. 

The congressional subpoenas issued today were from the House Intelligence Committee and House Financial Services Committee.  Also tonight, "Politico" reports tonight the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, has issued a subpoena to the accounting firm of Mazars USA for ten years of President Trump`s financial records.  A Justice Department spokesperson confirmed to NBC News today that a redacted version of Robert Mueller`s report will be released on Thursday.

And in a surprising revelation today, we learned that back on March 27th, the bipartisan leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff and Republican Devin Nunes sent a letter to the Justice Department saying that Robert Mueller must brief the Intelligence Committee on his investigation.  The letter says special counsel Mueller and senior members of his office as well as other relevant senior officials from the department, bureau and intelligence community must also brief the full committee on the investigation`s scope and areas of inquiry, its findings and the intelligence and counter intelligence information gathered in the course of and related to the investigation. 

Joining our discussion now, NYU law professor Ryan Goodman.  He served as a counsel in the Defense Department in the Obama administration.  And he has been studying William Barr`s earlier years of service in the Justice Department that include controversies involving William Barr`s inaccurate summaries of Justice Department material.  That Congress was then pursuing.  Ryan Goodman is co-editor in chief of the forum 

Also with us, Ron Klain, he was a senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and to President Obama.  He was a former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and he was chief of staff to Attorney General Janet Reno.  So, he knows the workings of the attorney general`s office. 

And, Ryan Goodman, I want to start with you.  You have been reporting extensively on William Barr`s previous history in the Justice Department, Republican administration.  That involved a very similar situation in which he was issuing a summary version of what later turned out to be something very different from the summary. 

What does that tell us then about what we might expect in the difference between what has been the William Barr summary of the Mueller report and the next chapter, the redacted William Barr version of the Mueller report. 

RYAN GOODMAN, PROFESSOR, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW:  That`s right.  So there`s a remarkable episode that is very similar to today.  1989, William Barr had actually issued or written an opinion for the Justice Department highly controversy.  It looked like it paved the way for the United States to forcibly abduct the leader of Panama.  So Congress wanted the full opinion and Barr said, no, you can`t have the full opinion but I`ll give you a summary of its principal conclusions, which is the same language he used for the Mueller report.  That he`ll give a summary of the principal conclusions. 

It ends up that he gives a 13-page report and then only three years later do we actually find the full opinion and it turns out that he did not give Congress the principal conclusions.  He left some major conclusions out. 

So, it -- the final conclusion that I draw from that episode is that it was kind of an act of duplicity towards Congress and so, how much we can trust him today to not repeat that kind of behavior is up in the air.  I think it`s a concern. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, and, Ron Klain, I was thinking as I was reading Ryan`s reporting on this, in the ends, by the way, we get to see the that complete William Barr memo only when there`s a change of administrations and only when the Clinton administration comes in and only when actually Janet Reno moves into the Justice Department. 

And so that may be.  We may be a year and a half away from seeing the full Mueller report or from Congress seeing the full report because it might take a new president and new attorney general to release it. 

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Yes, it well might.  I think there are two things we know for sure.  One is sooner or later the full Mueller report will see the light of day. 

I think the truth always comes out that way.  And it may take a change of administrations.  It may take a very long time but I think sooner or later we`ll see the light of day. 

For the time being, the Trump administration has built a stonewall around the Mueller report.  That wall is not built by brick, it`s bar by bar.  They put Bill Barr in as attorney general for this purpose, they got rid of Sessions as attorney general.  So, the president could put in Bill Barr. 

Bill Barr wrote a memo saying is Trump couldn`t possibly be guilty of obstruction.  He wrote this short memo, who knows if it`s a accurate memo that allowed Trump to claim exoneration in all capitals and exclamation points and then he went before Congress last week and advance this had crazy spying theory. 

So, you know, Barr has been the instrument of the Trump stonewall.  We`re going to see how much of that gets cracked on Thursday.  Sooner or later, the whole thing will fall apart. 

O`DONNELL:  Ryan Goodman, there`s been a lot of the emphasis on the memo that William Barr wrote during the Trump presidency about the Mueller investigation.  But what you`re reporting indicates to me is that a solidly researched William Barr background by the Trump White House would have revealed hey, this guy is really good at redacting and this guy is really good at mischaracterizing summaries of reports that we`re hoping people don`t get to see, in other words, he`s got the skill set you might need when it comes time to the release of some form of the Mueller report. 

GOODMAN:  I think he practiced this at a very high art form.  It`s pretty incredible what he was able to do back then and I think another element in this is, would William Barr tarnish his record, tarnish his reputation and the answer is yes.  He did that when he was in the George W. Bush administration, George H.W. Bush administration, and he is willing to pay the price when the full report came out years later so they also knew they kind of had their man in a certain sense of he would be willing to do that kind of work once again to protect the White House. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, and Ron Klain, that -- the point Ryan just made is a really big point.  You and I know many, many people working in government who would never take a position that they knew at some point in the future or some years later even when a new administration comes in would be revealed to be basically fraudulent. 

I mean, most people we know I think who served in government would not do that.  So if you can find someone who`s already done it, I mean, and that`s what you`re looking for, that`s pretty unusual. 

KLAIN:  It is unusual, Lawrence.  And look, I mean, I think as amazing as it is to say this, Jeff Sessions, very conservative, someone who I criticized a lot as attorney general, you know, held the line against Donald Trump and refused to unrecuse in the Russia investigation and turned the thing over to Rod Rosenstein to manage. 

And so, you know, he wasn`t willing to corrupt himself in this way for President Trump.  We have to see ultimately what the truth holds out for Bill Barr.  But right now, it looks like this is someone willing to make these changes, produce this memo first of all a few weeks ago to provide Trump the exoneration victory lap and then we`re going to see how much redaction was done and how indicative the redaction is. 

I mean, there`s a lot of focus on the amount of redaction we`re going to see on Thursday.  But, really, just a few words can make all the difference.  So, until we see the full Mueller report, we really won`t know what Robert Mueller found about what happened in the 2016 campaign and then what Donald Trump did to obstruct justice in the investigation of that campaign.

O`DONNELL:  Well, we all know what we`re going to be doing all day Thursday and what we`re going to be talking about at this hour on Thursday night.  Ron Klain, Ryan Goodman, thank you for both for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it.

GOODMAN:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, a look at the extraordinary moment tonight in Rachel`s interview of Pete Buttigieg, something we have never seen in an interview of a presidential candidate before.


O`DONNELL:  Something happened tonight in the presidential campaign that we`ve never seen before, never happened before in presidential campaign history.  Just happened in the last hour.

I hope most of you saw it.  We`re going to talk about it, an openly gay presidential candidate being asked by an openly gay T.V. interviewer about the differences in their deeply personal experiences of coming out.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW:  I will acknowledge at the outset that this is an awkward question.  I was a Rhodes scholar too.  I went up in 1995, you went up a decade later.  So I was the first openly gay American Rhodes scholar.

And I got there and I had come out in college.  So I applied for the Rhodes scholarship as an openly gay person.  It definitely came up in the selection process.  When I got there, I learned that I was the first American that has ever been out.


MADDOW:  But that was a decade before you.  And you went through college and then the Rhodes scholarship process and getting the Rhodes scholarship and going to work for McKenzie and joining the Navy and deploying to Afghanistan and coming home and running for mayor in your hometown and getting elected before you came out at the age of 33.


MADDOW:  And I bring this up and I acknowledge it`s a difficult question not because it`s bad that you didn`t come out until you were 33 but I think it would have killed me to be closeted for that long.  I just think about what it takes as a human being to know something and to have to bifurcate your public life.

And for you to have had all of those difficult transitions and experiences and to be aiming as high as you were all of that time and not coming out until your early 30s, I just wonder if that was hurtful to you.  If it hurt you to do it.

BUTTIGIEG:  It was hard.  It was really hard.

MADDOW:  Coming out is hard but being in the closet is harder.

BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.  No, that`s what I mean.  I mean it was and it wasn`t.  First of all, it took me plenty of time to come out to myself.  So I did not the way you did or the way my husband did figure out at such an early age.  I probably should have.

I mean there are certainly plenty of indications by the time I was 15- years-old.  I could point back and be like yes, this kid`s gay.  But I guess I just really needed to not be.

And there`s this war that breaks out I think inside a lot of people when they realize that they might be something they`re afraid of.  And it took me a very long time to resolve that.


O`DONNELL:  I hope you saw the full interview.  It will be available online.

And after a break, Aisha Moodie-Mills will join us to discuss that historic moment in a campaign interview history and other campaign developments of the day.



BUTTIGIEG:  It was hard.  It was really hard.

MADDOW:  Coming out is hard but being in the closet is harder.

BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.  No, that`s what I mean.  I mean it was and it wasn`t.  First of all, it took me plenty of time to come out to myself.  So I did not the way you did or the way my husband did figure out at such an early age.


O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion, Democrat Strategist and Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, Aisha Moodie-Mills.

So this was an exchange we`ve never seen in the presidential campaign interviewing.  I talked to Rachel about it beginning of the hour.  She said it was difficult for her to bring up.  She also said there will be people who think she should not have brought it up.  What is your reaction to this exchange?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I actually appreciated the fact that she brought it up.  So as an out lesbian myself -- and funny, the first time I met Mayor Pete, I was the present CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund where he just did his big speech that`s being publicized.  So shout out to all of my Victory Fund folks.

And at that time, he had actually just come out.  And so I got to talk to him about that.  Look, let me tell you coming out is the most personal and fretful for many people experiences that we will ever encounter.  So no one can cast judgment on the process around it.

I do appreciate the fact that she brought it up to try to get a sense of how authentic is he.  Was he just trying to -- was he in the closet because he was ambitious or was he really grappling with something.  And I think the way that he responded and shared intimately and personally that I had a bit of fear, I didn`t quite know who I was, I think that all of us could probably relate to growing up and then realizing at some point that maybe we`re not exactly who we had thought we were going to be and trying to reconcile that is challenging.

So imagine that when it comes to your sexuality when it`s about you realizing that you`re in love with and attracted to the type of person that you might not have expected.  It`s a lot.  It`s a lot.

So I appreciate Rachel asking it.  I think it was very much in bounds to have that conversation and for her to also share.  And then I think that Mayor Pete really handled it well and I appreciate the fact that he was very authentic in his response.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  I was watching the interview and there was a lot of familiar ground in it.  If you`ve listened to him speak a lot and there were a lot of areas where he was doing variations of things he`s said before.

But this was clearly something that he, obviously, didn`t know it was coming.  Rachel even felt you could tell she was a little awkward bringing it up.  But it was, as she put it, her burning question.  Can you understand that as someone who is so publicly identifying as a gay candidate and a gay man married to a man that this would provoke a set of questions, this would inspire a set of questions that might not otherwise be asked?

MOODIE-MILLS:  Oh, for sure.  I mean for sure.  From both the LGBTQ community, as well as not LGBTQ people.  I think --

O`DONNELL:  Let me just put this in parenthesis.  It would never have occurred to me to ask that question, right?  It wasn`t my burning question.  It was Rachel`s burning question because, of course, she had been through that experience and that`s what makes it an important question for people.

MOODIE-MILLS:  For sure.

O`DONNELL:  To have been through that experience.

MOODIE-MILLS:  For sure.  We want to know people and connect with them and their deepest selves in order to trust them.  And I think that that`s what she was getting at.

I mean we really do, at least for me personally, I want to know about the people and their integrity and what they believe in and their values and how they`ve come to have the values that they have through their life experience.

I talk about identity politics often.  I talk about the politics of race, and gender, and sexuality.  And it`s not simply because it`s buzz words or it`s about like constituencies and "bases for the Democratic Party".  But because I believe that the best leaders are the leaders who show up in the way that they see the world through an authentic lens that is ultimately about their lived experience.

And to the extent that he`s leaning into that, Rachel`s pulling that out of him to other candidates in the field, they are going to be called into question who are you, why do you believe what you believe and what`s your personal story around that.  So I thought that it was great that we got some of that personal story.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  All of my questions are policy because I have known so many politicians and I know how much -- how many walls of guard they have up around them.  I don`t even attempt to penetrate them.  I don`t care what you are as a human being because I don`t think I can find that out on T.V.  I don`t think I have the tools.

But what I felt I saw in that moment was Rachel reaching in there and finding something for us and that you know, Pete Buttigieg then delivered that we wouldn`t have found in any other interview.

MOODIE-MILLS:  And I talked to him afterwards too.

O`DONNELL:  Oh, you did?

MOODIE-MILLS:  I did and he was surprised.  Not shocked and taken aback so much as I said hey, you did a great job.  And he was like, "Yes, that was surprising.  What did you think?"  And I said I thought that it was wonderful and elegant and charismatic and clearly, I would imagine a bit cathartic too.  A bit cathartic because when you spend your life --

O`DONNELL:  And what did he say?

MOODIE-MILLS:  And he just kind of like nodded.  But he`s been in this journey since I think it was 2005 of coming out.  And there is a relief that happens when you can show up as who you are.

My own personal story, I didn`t come out until I was in my probably late 20s I would say.  And so from a professional context, I ended up coming out on the front page of "The Washington Post," my wife and I.

O`DONNELL:  If you`re going to do it.

MOODIE-MILLS:  We might as well bust out.  But all of my colleagues, they looked at me and they are like, "Oh my God, I had no idea.  Now, I understand you. Now, I know you and now I feel more connected to you."  And my relationships actually strengthened.

And there`s something that`s really cathartic about that, something really warm and a connection that happens.

O`DONNELL:  I`ve been on that side of it where a friend has come out to me and we just became much closer because of it.  And I realized in that moment that at some level, there was some part of me that was feeling lied to over a period of time, the previous couple of years and then suddenly, that was all lifted.

So you`ve heard and seen Pete Buttigieg more than most of us.  You`ve seen his confidence.  What did you make of his confidence in handling that moment with Rachel?  Did it seem like he was still holding that confident position that he always holds?

MOODIE-MILLS:  I mean look, I think that he is a very, very, very smart man, clearly.  He also has a lot of passion and a lot of conviction.  And he knows what he believes in and he knows what he wants and he knows what he wants to do for America.  That completely comes across in all facets of his conversation.

So when he was talking about policy ideas, when he was talking about being a bit of a disruptor, and how he was going to challenge the status quo, I thought that everything that he talked about he had a lot of conviction and confidence in because these are things that he has really studied, really put his positions together over time and analyzed.

And so it seems to me that he`s not someone that`s a little nervous off the cuff because he is a very, very, very thoughtful and calculated candidate.

O`DONNELL:  So "The New York Times" reporting today that he has been deliberately avoiding policy specifics and is trying to set a narrative and a story about himself first.  Is that what you expected him to do as a campaigner, and do you expect since you`ve known him so well to hear the kind of Elizabeth Warren level policy specifics that we`ve been getting from her?

MOODIE-MILLS:  So the beauty of where he is right now I think his campaign would say is that he`s still introducing himself to all of us, right.  So no one knew who Mayor Pete was and now he`s just shown up.

So surely there`s an introduction process that has to happen.  Now, unfortunately, most of the other candidates have a record so we already know who they are.  So they`re in the process of being critiqued where he`s still in the process of saying hello.

I do believe though that when the summer comes and he gets on the stage and there`s real substantive policy conversations happening, he`s going to have to account for that and talk about what he`s done, what he will do.  But right now, he`s going on an introduction tour, right?  And that is playing to his favor, but I don`t think -- I think the honeymoon at some point will be over.

O`DONNELL:  Aisha Moodie-Mills, we really needed you here tonight.

MOODIE-MILLS:  Thank you, sir.  Appreciate it.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you very much for being here when we needed you.

And when we come back, what we saw today in Paris and what it tells us about civilization.


O`DONNELL:  Civilization is hard, perhaps impossible to define which makes the history of civilization the most complex story anyone could try to tell.  The esteemed British Art Historian Lord Kenneth Clark gave us his version of the history of civilization in a book in a 1969 "BBC" series entitled "Civilization".

Kenneth Clark added the subtitle "a personal view" so that no one would take his enthralling television lectures as the definitive story of civilization.  Lord Clark relied on a principle first enunciated by the artist and art critic John Ruskin in Ruskin`s "The History of Venice" published in 1884.

Ruskin wrote Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art.  Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others.  But of the three, the only trustworthy one is the last.

Kenneth Clark`s 20th Century variation on Ruskin`s point was "If I had to say which was telling the truth about society a speech by a minister of housing or the actual buildings put up in his time, I should believe the buildings."

One of the buildings Lord Clark believed and loved was the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  After this break, a last word about Notre Dame Cathedral and Civilization.


O`DONNELL:  In his 1969 "BBC" series "Civilisation", which came to the United States a year later on "PBS", the 20th Century`s leading Art Historian, Lord Kenneth Clark, offered this definition of civilization at the beginning of the first episode.


KENNETH CLARK, ART HISTORIAN:  What is civilization?  I don`t know.  I can`t define it in abstract terms yet, but I think I can recognize it when I see it and I`m looking at it now.


O`DONNELL:  And we all looked at it today.  The world looked at it today and tears fell for Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and around the world.  It is the first time in human history that people all over the world at the same time could watch and did watch an 800-year-old building burning.

Notre Dame is more than twice as old as the Taj Mahal, another indelible landmark in the history of civilization.  Today`s loss felt like so much more than the loss of an old familiar building to fire because it is a loss to civilization itself.

If you are one of the lucky millions of people who have visited Notre Dame Cathedral, you now know that you were among the last to see it as we knew it.  No visitors again will ever see what you saw.

But today, France`s President Emmanuel Macron promised to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral.  The French will rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral.  Civilization will rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral.

And your grandchildren will see something as important as you did if they get the chance to visit Paris.  They will see in a rebuilt Notre Dame Cathedral civilization`s perseverance.  They will see civilization`s strength.  And they will see something you might never see.

They will see the old parts of Notre Dame Cathedral that survived the great fire of 2019.  And then they will see the new parts, the parts you might never see.  And when they leave the rebuilt Cathedral, they will know this truth, civilization cannot be built and left to stand to be stared at by tourist and studied by scholars.  Civilization must be built and then rebuilt and then rebuilt.




O`DONNELL:  After the mourning for what the world lost today, we will rebuild.  The world will contribute to the rebuilding of Notre Dame Cathedral. 

And the new Notre Dame Cathedral will be a new chapter in our never ending story of civilization.  That`s "Tonight`s Last Word."  "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.