LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
I`ve got a bunch of new questions for Congressman Eric Swalwell, who is a member of the Intelligence Committee, who will be joining us tonight, both as a member of the committee and later in the hour actually as a presidential candidate. We will separate those two things out.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Excellent. The new staffer, new staffing at the Intelligence Committee, I think we are the first people able to report that. So, I don`t know if he knows that`s public knowledge, but we will just made it so.
O`DONNELL: All right. We`ll get into it with him. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, we`re going to get straight to the news of the day but I want to alert you now that we`re going to end the hour with a very important footnote to the story that begins the hour. We`re going to show you video of Bobby Kennedy asking questions in a congressional hearing when he was a committee staff lawyer which the attorney general is now pretending is unprecedented.
The news day began with the attorney general refusing to show up to testify to the House Judiciary Committee. It`s not just the attorney general now who is refusing to testify to the House Judiciary Committee. Now, President Trump tonight is saying he won`t allow (AUDIO GAP) to testify, even if they`re no longer working in his administration.
And that might include Robert Mueller. NBC News is reporting tonight that the House Judiciary Committee has now begun discussions directly with Robert Mueller`s team about coming to testify to the committee but nothing has been finalized at this point and no date has been set. The Judiciary Committee has been seeking Robert Mueller`s testimony through the normal Justice Department process which requires the permission of the attorney general, but that permission might never come now.
The president told Fox News tonight that he will try to block former White House counsel Don McGahn`s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. The president said: I don`t think I can let him, especially him because he was a counsel.
The president falsely claimed that he has given investigators total transparency and then he said "it`s done."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: So, is it done?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say it`s done. We`ve been through this. Nobody has ever done what I`ve done. I`ve given total transparency. It`s never happened before like this.
INTERVIEWER: So, congress should be --
TRUMP: They shouldn`t be looking anymore. This is all -- it`s done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The attorney general refused to testify to the House Judiciary Committee today because of what he called, quote, Chairman Nadler`s insistence on having staff questioned the attorney general. The attorney general called that unprecedented. But as I said, later in this hour, we`ll show you a video history of committee staff asking questions in congressional hearings, including President Trump`s favorite lawyer Roy Cohn who actually became a famous lawyer who Donald Trump wanted to hire because Roy Cohn was allowed to ask questions in high profile hearings as a staff attorney.
There were more calls for attorney general`s resignation today and our first guest tonight, Congressman Eric Swalwell has called for the attorney general`s impeachment. Eric Swalwell is not the first member of the House to call for the Attorney General Barr to be impeached.
The House Banking chairman, Henry Gonzales (ph), called for the impeachment of Attorney General William Barr 27 years ago, in William Barr`s first tour of duty as attorney general for Republican President George H.W. Bush. William Barr has been through all of this before accusations of dishonesty, accusations of being part of a cover-up, calls for his resignation, calls for his impeachment. The people who urged Donald Trump to choose William Barr as his attorney general knew William Barr had survived all that once before and would know how to handle it once again.
Democrats controlled the House and Senate in 1992 and were outraged at Barr`s handling of an investigation of the administration which included an investigation of the conduct of the FBI and the Justice Department. So, William Barr was actually supervising then an investigation of himself. As I reported on this program recently, "New York Times" columnist William Safire on October 19th, 1992, called Attorney General William Barr the cover-up general because of the way he handled that investigation.
William Safire was a conservative Republican columnist in the "New York Times" in those days. He had worked as a speechwriter for Republican President Richard Nixon. And even William Safire was astonished by William Barr`s conduct as attorney general. But if Bill Safire was still with us tonight, he would not be surprised to hear what the speaker of the house said today about Attorney General William Barr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That`s a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Remarkably, after the speaker of the house said that`s a crime, the next reporter`s question changed the subject, but MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt knew a history-making comment by a speaker of the house when she heard one, and two minutes later, Kasie Hunt went back to the crime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Madam Speaker, did the attorney general commit a crime?
PELOSI: He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress. And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime.
Nobody is above the law, not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general. Being the attorney general does not give you a bath to go say whatever you want, and it is the fact because you are the attorney general.
HUNT: Should he go to jail? Should he go to jail for it?
PELOSI: There`s a process involved here, and as I said, I`ll say it again, and the committee will act upon how we will proceed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: "Politico" reported today in a closed-door session with the Democratic members of the House of Representatives this morning, Speaker Pelosi told Florida Congressman Charlie Crist we saw Barr commit a crime when he answered your question.
Here is the moment the speaker was talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D-FL): Reports have emerged recently, General, that members of the special counsel`s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report`s findings. Do you know what they`re referencing with that?
BARR: No, I don`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No one knew it then but we now know that William Barr was in possession of a letter of complaint signed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and according to William Barr`s guessing yesterday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, that letter was written by the special counsel`s team.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: You know, the letter`s a bit snitty and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was a major blunder in his under oath testimony yesterday. Because William Barr has been claiming that because Congressman Crist used the phrase the special counsel`s team, that didn`t mean the special counsel himself. And so, he did not have to reveal then that he was in position of possession of complaint from the special counsel`s team as he put it.
But you just heard the attorney general say that he believed that that letter wasn`t even written by Robert Mueller, just signed by Robert Mueller which means it was the product in the attorney general`s mind at that time of the special counsel`s team. The White House released a letter to William Barr from a White House counsel who is designated to defend the president in investigations.
The letter was written the day after the redacted Mueller report was publicly released and among other things, the letter stresses that although the president waived executive privilege and allowed White House counsel Don McGahn and other members of his administration to voluntarily testify to the special counsel, that waiver of executive privilege does not extend to any other investigation.
The president`s lawyers letter says his decision not to the assert privilege is not a waiver of executive privilege for any other material or for any other purpose. His decision to permit disclosure of executive portions of the report does not wave any privileges or protections for the special counsel`s office underlying investigative materials such as, for example, FBI form 302 witness interview summaries and presumptively privileged documents made available to the special counsel`s office by the White House. His decision does not affect his ability as president to instruct his advisers to decline to appear before congressional committees to answer questions on these same subjects.
Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He`s a member of the Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, and he is also a candidate for president.
Congressman Swalwell, I first of all want to get your reaction to the attorney general`s refusal to testify today.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good evening, Lawrence.
I believe it`s clear why he didn`t want to come in. He has a lot to hide. This attorney general has had the shovels out finishing off the burial of evidence to protect this president. He was allowed to play a home game yesterday essentially in front of a friendly Senate with Chairman Graham, but today he was facing the new majority that the American people had put in place to put this balance of power, on these abuses of power.
He wasn`t willing to come in. He`ll stand on process objections but the American people will judge him by whether he showed up or he didn`t. When he was supposed to come and talk about what the Russians did in our election and who they worked with on the Trump team, the Trump campaign, the Trump businesses, he was unwilling to do that. And he`s going to be held responsible and accountable for that.
O`DONNELL: And so, what is next? How is he going to be held responsible?
SWALWELL: Well, I`m urging my colleagues to move forward with impeachment proceedings. And, Lawrence, I don`t take that lightly. I called on him to resign a couple weeks ago. I`ve long been concerned about his conduct.
First, he prejudged the investigation before he even got the job with the letter that he sent to the deputy attorney general. Second, when he took the job, he accused falsely the prior administration of spying on the Trump campaign. Third, the way that he mischaracterized at the press conference the Mueller findings that there was no collusion when, in fact, there was evidence of collusion and also stated that Mueller was unable to find obstruction because of different things that Mueller laid out but didn`t know the that the Mueller noted that it was the Office of Legal Counsel finding that you can`t indict a president which also stood in the way.
And then, finally, Lawrence, just in the last two weeks, finding out that he lied to Congress, to Congressman Crist, and yesterday, he missed the deadline when we asked him what the lawful subpoena to deliver the documents of the Mueller report. Time after time, he`s protected the president, acted as his lawyer. The only way to stop that and get the documents we need, have the rule of law, is move to impeach and ultimately remove him.
O`DONNELL: Isn`t that taking -- Congress taking the eye off the ball, though, since the Mueller report is about the president? Wouldn`t it be a sidetrack to go after William Barr?
SWALWELL: We have to do all of that. We have to continue to understand what the Russians are doing, hold accountable the person who won`t give us the information we need, because -- you know, an eighth of the Mueller report is redacted. If we`re going to hold the president accountable and put reforms in place so the Russians can`t do this, we need to see the full report.
And if he`s going to be a live real-time obstructer, we have to move to get him out of the way essentially so we can get what we need.
And, again, you know, people talk about -- well, are you going to impeach the president? Is that on table? Yes, of course, that`s on the table. We`re looking at his conduct right now.
But if he has someone withstanding guard and is not following the law and turning over the documents that we need, then we`re not going to be able to get that. And he`s effectively allowing the president to get off scot- free. So, he needs to be held account credible.
O`DONNELL: Let me go to a point that Rachel raised, just at the end of her hour. I don`t know if you heard that but -- about the new staffing on the Intelligence Committee that you`re a part of it and the way the Chairman Schiff is adding to the staff of the committee.
What can you tell us about that and what does it mean?
SWALWELL: Yes, this is a staff that we needed two years ago, Lawrence. The Republicans in the thick of this investigation, right after we found out about the attack, would not allow us to add staff or investigators that would look at the money and so we were in a hole for two years. But our committee and our staff worked hard to elevate the issue and the public awareness.
And now, we have these experts on the beat so to speak. And we are looking at the financial aspect of this. Chairman Schiff and I and others suspected that Mueller was not able to look at the financial compromise of the president which again calls into question whether you can really charge somebody or not charge somebody with the conspiracy if you don`t understand the financial entanglements.
We are looking at those financial entanglements. We are taking an MRI to the financial records of the Trump family, businesses, and campaign.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for starting us off tonight.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Later in the hour we`ll do the presidential campaign interview.
SWALWELL: Look forward to that.
O`DONNELL: So, please stay with us.
We are joined now by Chuck Rosenborg. He`s a former senior official at the FBI and former U.S. attorney. He was counsel to Robert Mueller at the FBI. He`s an MSNBC legal analyst.
And, Chuck, when I read this letter today from the White House counsel to the attorney general, I just wanted you on the phone immediately.
So they`re saying that even though there was a waiver of executive privilege to allow all these White House staff people to freely discuss whatever the special prosecutor asked about, that waiver doesn`t extend to any congressional committee, doesn`t extend anywhere else at all?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Mr. Flood, Emmet Flood, counsel to the president who wrote the letter, makes a pretty nuanced and difficult argument. He said the president decided not to assert the privilege but that failure to assert or the decision not to assert the privilege is not the same as waiving the privilege.
So, it`s not a crazy argument. It`s not frivolous, but I don`t think it prevails. The better argument I think you`ll hear it from the other side is that if you waive as to one, you waive as to all.
But here`s the problem. In order to get to that answer, it`s going to have to be litigated and you know better.
O`DONNELL: What`s the timetable? So, obviously, what happens is, they subpoena Don McGahn and the president says, no, executive privilege. And then that goes to court. That subpoena in effect goes to court. How long does that take to work it out?
ROSENBERG: That`s exactly right. It goes to a federal district court. And whoever loses there will inevitably appeal to the court of appeals. And someone will lose there and they might take the appeal to the Supreme Court which may or may not hear it.
O`DONNELL: Three months between each stage or possibly more?
ROSENBERG: Possibly more. I mean, it could be 12-plus months. That`s part of the strategy, right?
So you don`t have to advance a winning argument. You just have to advance an argument credible enough to prolong the process.
O`DONNELL: And litigation is something Donald Trump has always used as a tactic without necessarily believing he could even win.
ROSENBERG: A hundred percent right. We saw that time and time again when it was businessman Donald Trump in Manhattan. And there often you had somebody on the other side who couldn`t afford to wage that legal battle.
That won`t happen here. Both sides will be able to mount their arguments in court. But nevertheless, if you`re just trying to run out the clock, this is a way to do it.
O`DONNELL: Your reaction to the attorney general refusing to show up at the House Judiciary Committee today.
ROSENBERG: We need toe hear from our attorney general. We also need to hear the truth from our attorney general and that appears to be two different things. But I was disappointed.
The Department of Justice has a critical role in this society. The attorney general whether you like him or not at its helm and he should be there to answer questions in the people`s house. I mean, that`s part of his job.
I imagine he will get there one way or the other. They may not like one another but he has to sit in that chair and answer questions.
O`DONNELL: Well, he has to by tradition.
O`DONNELL: But the tradition does not seem to hold with President Trump or with this attorney general now.
ROSENBERG: Right, the Congress has a few cards to play, for instance, purse strings. They are the appropriators. There are things that a Department of Justice needs from a Congress and so one way or another, he`s going to have to go there and answer their questions eventually.
O`DONNELL: But they are two different economies. We already saw him testify to the appropriations committee and that`s a very different experience than testifying to the Judiciary Committee.
ROSENBERG: That`s right. I still predict he will show up there eventually. I`m just sorry he wasn`t there today because these are important questions, just like the litigation which would delay the questions to which we need answers, you want answers now. And you need the attorney general there now. These are too important to put off.
O`DONNELL: And quickly, Robert Mueller`s testimony, are we -- are they going to be able to block that?
ROSENBERG: So an interesting question. If it`s Bob Mueller private citizen, of course he can go testify. However, there are still limitations on it. He can`t talk about grand jury information, he can`t talk about classified information. He can`t talk about ongoing matters.
So, once he`s a private citizen, he`s welcome to go, but he`s still not welcome to talk about things that are otherwise restricted.
O`DONNELL: Chuck Rosenberg, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, President Trump might be just as worried about losing re-election as he is about losing legal bats because if he loses, he has a lot of free time to deal with things like, oh, you know, indictments.
O`DONNELL: The polls get worse for President Trump every day. He has the most consistently strong disapproval rating in the history of presidential polling and a new poll today shows most of the top tier Democratic candidates significant leads over Donald Trump in one-on-one polls against him.
And so, there is a very strong chance that he will not be president of the United States on the afternoon of the next inauguration day, according to what we know from the polls now. And if that happens, Donald Trump will have a lot of free time to deal with things like being indicted.
Three weeks ago at this hour, I reminded you that Donald Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Southern District of New York with Michael Cohen who pleaded guilty to federal election crimes that he said he committed with Donald Trump and at Donald Trump`s direction. And that they committed those crimes together to win the presidential campaign and what the prosecutors called a conspiracy against the United States of America. And that all of that is still sitting in the Southern District of New York waiting for Donald Trump after the next inauguration day. That`s the point I made then.
And now, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is saying the same thing in a smarter way. In an interview with "The Daily Beast", Preet Bharara said: My former office clearly endorses and believes the fact as Michael Cohen admitted in open court that he engaged in the conduct he pleaded guilty to at the direction of Individual 1, Individual 1 is the president, depending on what the other circumstances are, I believe there`s a reasonable likelihood that they would follow through on that.
The man who thinks he`s the smartest staff person in the Trump White House proved once again today that there is no good way of defending Donald Trump. Emmet flood, the White House counsel who is assigned to defending the president and every investigation is the author of a letter that was released by the White House today presumably because Emmet Flood and the White House think it is very helpful to the president.
It is a letter as we mentioned to previous segment to Attorney General William Barr. It was written the day after the redacted Mueller report was released. It is a letter of complaint about Robert Mueller and the Mueller report. And it biggest complaint, biggest complaint is that Robert Mueller in the report says that the special counsel could not exonerate the president in its investigation of obstruction of justice by the president.
And the president`s lawyer does not insist that the special counsel could exonerate the president. You would think that`s what his complaint is, why didn`t he exonerate the president.
The president`s lawyer actually says that it is impossible to exonerate the president, Emmet Flood`s letter says the special counsel`s office concluded that the evidence prevented it from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred, but conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred was not the special counsel`s office assigned task, because making conclusive determinations of innocence is the never the task of the federal prosecutor. Prosecutors simply are not in the business of establishing innocence.
And so, the president`s own lawyer took the position in that letter that the Mueller report did not establish the president`s innocence on anything.
So when Donald Trump stands up in the presidential campaign and says he was exonerated, the Democrats can wave the president`s lawyer`s letter saying that he wasn`t.
Joining our discussion, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, and Jason Johnson, politics editor at theroot.com, and a professor for politics of media at Morgan State University.
And, Neera, begin where you want to because there`s so much going on here. Here --
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I mean, my take on the letter is that Emmet Flood probably presumed because there`s so many big words in the letter, Donald Trump was never going to read it.
O`DONNELL: Of course he did. He doesn`t know that.
TANDEN: So, he thought maybe he would get by on that. But I do think -- I think you`ve seen, this is the latest example of the ways in which the administration has essentially argued themselves into a bag. You saw throughout the attorney general`s testimony yesterday how he couldn`t even articulate clearly without some prompting that if the Russians come and or another country comes and tries to sway the election, actually as a candidate, you might want to let the FBI know.
I mean, the attorney general confident United States has to go through mental gymnastics on an issue like that, which tells you how you know, Kafkaesque this whole debate is. And what we should really recognize is that we have a president who is continually working to obstruct any investigation, and generally speaking when you`re trying to obstruct investigations, it shows that you`re guilty, not that you`re innocent. That`s the bottom line I think for most Americans.
O`DONNELL: So, Jason, what I was struck by it`s a legal letter. The legal point it wants to make is we are not extending the waiver of executive privilege beyond the Mueller investigation. OK, that`s the legal point. But it`s a political letter. This was written to help the president politically, help the president`s re-election campaign.
And in the part where he`s trying to help the most by attacking the Mueller report, he is actually saying you could never prove Donald Trump innocent of anything.
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it`s funny. It`s like, you know, you accused him of being a liar and a thief and a murderer, he is not a liar is essentially what they`re saying here.
And the problem is, it`s hard to keep track of all these lies. Like these are individuals who worked in D.C., they worked in Congress, they worked as lobbyists for years and they may be used to sort of fudging the truth but the level of mendacity that you have to engage in to work this guy is actually beyond them.
I`m impressed that they`re still incapable of lying the way they want to lie. They`ll get better but this letter is an example of how even someone using the spiciest of word salads can`t find a way to justify their boss keeping his job.
TANDEN: As evidenced by the fact that, you know, you have Kamala Harris finding the attorney general didn`t look at the underlying evidence. I mean, as Americans, we expect prosecutors to look at the basic evidence behind a case. The fact he`s unable to do that because his job was not to find what to do here, his job was to protect the president. I mean, the president basically put his own lawyer in charge of this investigation.
O`DONNELL: Jason, these one-on-one polls are interesting. They`re early, we grant that. They`re early.
But there`s a consistent pattern you see in the polls and they line up and they make intuitive sense with a president who has always had significant majority disapproval that he would be running behind any reasonable- sounding candidates.
JOHNSON: So that`s the issue, reasonable, right? They all sound reasonable now. Will they sound reasonable at this point next year?
I was looking at polls around May of 2011, right? Right before Obama was up for re-election. Trump was actually ahead even though he hadn`t announced in some polls at that point. So, we can`t always trust what these polls are saying now.
But what this speaks to and I said this before, Lawrence, Trump has the weakest fundamentals of any president in history for re-election. It you lost a popular vote by 3 million, you approval always blows 50 percent and every swing state that you won swung back blue hard during your first midterm.
He`s starting from a deficit. He doesn`t just have a headwind. I mean, this guy is climbing over rocks and mountains to get there.
I don`t know if that means that the Democrat can pull it off. We`ll have to see who the final nominee. But Donald Trump is not in a very strong position. I think -- I objectively think any of the top four or five Democrats running right now, if they`re smart, if they pick the right kind of VP could probably pull off victory assuming Trump and this administration don`t cheat --
TANDEN: I think the one way he is planning to win, I would agree that the fundamentals are definitely against him and that he is -- he`s as many have said, he`s a president of his base, he`s not the president of the country. He`s done nothing to reach out to the middle or the 51 percent of the country so far. It`s consistently has 50 percent or 55 or 58 against him. It`s a little unusual politics.
But I do think his plan is to destroy the Democratic nominee. And I think he will play psychological warfare in the Democratic primaries. So, I think Democrats have to be mindful of who the candidate he wants is, who can he go after. That`s the only thing I would add to that.
JOHNSON: Here`s the thing about that. I never believe -- first off, this guy`s got terrible political instincts, right? I don`t think trust anything he has to say. He lost the popular vote before.
But I think this idea we have to be careful how he destroys people, Donald Trump -- this sort of high school game that he plays of coming up with nicknames, it only works for his base.
I mean I don`t think it necessarily has much of a pervasive impact. And I wouldn`t trust -- it`s like if you ask an athlete which team do you want to face, they`re never going to tell you the truth. It`s like do you really want to face the Lakers? Do you want to face Golden State?
I don`t think Trump really knows. He just knows who he`s paying attention to right now. The people that he dismisses like Beto O`Rourke, Beto O`Rourke could actually be really dangerous, even his own advisers don`t know who`s the --
TANDEN: I mean he does very well in this poll.
O`DONNELL: Neera, you`ve worked in presidential campaigns. I want to -- the way -- here`s why I`ve been watching the Trump re-election campaign and presidential re-election campaigns are actually supposed to begin on the election night when you win. Your victory speech is supposed to be at least partially directed at the people who didn`t vote for you.
TANDEN: Yes, that is usually the case.
O`DONNELL: So in my watching of the Trump re-election campaign, I have never once seen him try to reach a voter who did not already vote for him and so the way I look at the Trump campaign is what did he do to convince a voter to change their mind and vote for Donald Trump today and I`ve never seen that day happen.
TANDEN: Yes. That day has never happened. I do think he tries to use fear to scare people. I think the caravan was about trying to scare people. Maybe women in the suburbs, who knows.
But here`s the thing, it didn`t work. That`s the issue. He lost historically in the midterms. Nine million more people voted for Democrats than for him.
So what is he doing day to day to actually get some of those people back? Nothing. I mean very little. His whole strategy is to just bring more people out from the base.
And I think that`s a shaky category because here`s the thing, he`s no longer the change agent. He`s the incumbent. He can`t promise a new change in Washington. He has to go on what he`s done.
So far he`s only passed one major bill and it was a tax cut that basically no one in America feels except for the top one percent, not his base.
O`DONNELL: And now he`s fighting in court to take health care away from 21 million people.
JOHNSON: Which is not going to be popular.
O`DONNELL: I don`t see that helping the campaign.
JOHNSON: No, no. Here`s a particularly scary part. All of these bad news, all of these bad poll numbers, losing in the midterms, everything else like that, that`s with a good economy.
JOHNSON: What happens if this slows down? If there`s a snowball`s chance in Jamaica that he`s going to be able to pull this off if this economy ends up slowing down.
And one other thing I`ll say, we`ve sort of talked about this before. Who would be the most effective at beating him? The most effective person for the Democrats to beat Donald Trump is the person who gets the most people enthusiastic.
You can`t line this up one-on-one, right. There`s no statistical measure. It`s got to be the candidate that gets the most people enthusiastic. Because the greatest danger in Trump getting re-elected is not because people fail to turn out to vote, it`s because they fail to believe that the challenger is going to actually change and undo the things that he`s done.
O`DONNELL: All right. We got to squeeze in a break here. Neera Tanden, Jason Johnson, thank you both very much for joining us here tonight. Really appreciate it.
And coming up later in the hour, we have a new video of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez preparing for her televised debate in her successful congressional campaign last year. And her preparation at that point was not about memorizing talking points.
O`DONNELL: As mentioned in the last segment, new polling today shows that President Trump is losing in one-on-one match-ups with several of the leading Democratic presidential candidates. A new "CNN" poll shows Beto O`Rourke with the largest lead over the president with O`Rourke at 52 percent and Trump at 42 percent.
Joe Biden leads the president in the one-on-one polling with 51 percent to 45 percent. Senator Bernie Sanders polled at 50 percent to Trump`s 44 percent. Senator Kamala Harris polled ahead of Donald Trump at 49 to 45 percent. Mayor Pete Buttigieg polled at 47 percent, with the president at 44. And Senator Elizabeth Warren polled within one point of the president which is a statistical tie within the margin of error.
At this point in 2007, in the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden was polling at only three percent against Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. And in the end, Joe Biden came in second. There is a second place in presidential campaigns. It`s called the vice president of the United States.
And almost all of the candidates running are solid possibilities for the vice presidential nomination. And it`s never too early to start thinking about who you would like to see on the ticket with your favorite candidate.
And that might start to become much clearer next month when we have the first Democratic presidential debates on this network. You can start looking at what your ideal ticket might look like then.
Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell is one of the candidates who has qualified to participate in that debate. And he will join us next for tonight`s interview as one of the contenders.
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, one of the 21 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, Congressman Eric Swalwell. Thank you very much, Congressman, for staying with us for this campaign discussion.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: I want to start with a question that some of the candidates, some of the men running have been asked and it`s that question of would you choose a woman as your vice presidential running mate.
I`m going to ask you a different question. I`m going to ask would you happily accept the nomination to run in the vice presidential slot with a woman at the top of the ticket?
SWALWELL: Oh, I mean of course. I`ll do anything to serve my country, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And I want to go to issues that aren`t being discussed very much these days and using your experience on the intelligence committee. What do you see as the biggest threat in the world that the United States faces now?
SWALWELL: Lawrence, I see the biggest threat being on the Intelligence Committee meeting with foreign leaders, taking the classified briefings, and going to the war zones is that we have lost our friends in the world and that`s costing us more here at home.
You know, I`m a parent of two kids under two. So I look at everything in a parental metaphor. And if you look at our foreign policy, the way a parent would look at their kid on the playground, in the last couple of years your child has gone from hanging out with the honorable kids, traditional friends being the Brits and the French and the Australians to now we roll with the detention crew.
It`s not just bad company in the Russians and North Koreans and the Turks and the Saudis. It`s going to cost us more when you pull out of environmental treaties, when you pull out of nuclear treaties, when you can`t count on NATO and the South Koreans and the Japanese and you`re threatening to charge them more for our presence over there.
So that is the biggest threat right now is that we are not able to count on our friends. And there`s a cost for not having friends. It`s going to be fewer tablets in the hands of our kids in their classrooms and more expensive prescription drugs our for seniors because we`re going to have to spend more on defense.
O`DONNELL: You began the announcing of your presidential campaign focusing on the domestic threat of gun violence. What do you think you can realistically achieve legislatively on that if you`re in the presidency?
SWALWELL: Yes, I`m offering the boldness on this issue. And in the first hundred days, I will ask the Congress to pass not only background checks because 90 percent of Americans and 72 percent of NRA members want that, but also to ban and buy back the 15 million assault weapons just like the one that was used in Poway last weekend and used in other church shootings and other school shootings.
I`ve come to see, Lawrence that this issue is actually not as divisive as we`re told it`s supposed to be. We`re always told it`s a hat stove. But that`s a tactic that the NRA uses so that we do nothing.
I`m motivated by the moms and the students and the parents who all converged in this last election and beat 17 NRA endorsed members of Congress. And we`re just getting started.
O`DONNELL: And Medicare for all?
SWALWELL: Medicare for anyone who wants it. My plan is coverage for all which would include a public option, but also would invest in cures in our lifetime. I want to challenge the country to seek and find cures through investments in genomic research, targeted therapies, as well as data sharing so that we could look at ALS and Parkinson`s and cancer patients and assure them that we`re putting the next generation of scientists to work, to bring down the cost, extend the quality of life, and also have a massive jobs program.
O`DONNELL: So let me just explore this. Medicare for anyone who wants it, meaning they can buy into it?
SWALWELL: Yes, public option, Lawrence. So if you like your union plan, you can keep your union plan but the government will have a greater responsibility by bringing back the inheritance tax, reforming the capital gains tax, making sure that the wealthier pay their fair share. That -- those dollars will go into an affordable government plan.
O`DONNELL: And what about the Green New Deal?
SWALWELL: I support it. We have 12 years to address the devastating effects of climate change. But the first thing I`ll do is host in the United States a new climate accord, show leadership there, get us back into that agreement.
But also assure that union worker who is a pipefitter or a laborer that you don`t have the false choice of deciding between your job and clean air and clean water because we will make sure we deploy carbon capture, carbon sequestration, carbon reuse technologies to your job site.
You can keep working because we`ll bring those sites to carbon neutral but also have a skills bridge to the new and green color economy and wind, solar and alternative fuel cells. And again, I want to bring boldness where we`ve just seen incrementalism and gridlock.
O`DONNELL: How important do you think the issue of experience is for a candidate for president, you`re running against possibly the most experienced candidate for president ever in Vice President Biden with a very long Senate career and then eight years in the vice presidency. Bernie Sanders, very long congressional and Senate career. How do you compare your experience to theirs?
SWALWELL: I`ve been on the Intelligence Committee. I`ve defended the threats to our democracy from abroad and the Russian interference attacks. People have seen where I`ve stood in that ring but also defending the rule of law here at home on the Judiciary Committee and seven years as a prosecutor in my hometown city councilman.
I have some of the highest national security policy experience aside from Joe Biden in this field. But I also believe that not being in Congress for a lifetime, not being in Washington for a lifetime also brings a perspective that will bring new energy and new ideas and a sunny optimism that we can still solve these big problems.
O`DONNELL: Presidential Candidate Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us.
SWALWELL: My pleasure, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We`ll do this again.
SWALWELL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: There are a lot more issues to talk about and we will definitely do it again. Thank you for joining us tonight.
SWALWELL: All right. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, how the most famous freshman member of Congress in history prepared for her campaign debate back when nobody really knew her outside of her congressional district. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Last year, the then virtually unknown 28-year-old congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seemed to be doing everything right in her congressional campaign, including the televised debate on local T.V. in New York City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): For over 20 years, the interests of working families have been sold off to luxury and real estate developers, Wall Street banks and for-profit health care corporations. And for 20 years, our rents have been going up, health care`s been getting more expensive and our incomes are staying the same.
Not all Democrats are the same. And in a district that is overwhelmingly working class, we deserve a working-class champion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was the scene from the new Netflix documentary "Knock Down the House" that became available on Netflix yesterday and is on my list for viewing this weekend. Here is a scene of the candidate at home preparing for that debate which involved more than just studying talking points.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I can do this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you can.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I am experienced enough to do this. I am knowledgeable enough to do this. I am prepared enough to do this.
I am mature enough to do this. I am brave enough to do this. And this whole thing, this whole time, he`s going to tell me I can`t do this. He`s going to tell me I`m small, that I`m little, that I`m young, that I`m inexperienced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: She really did push all of that away. After this final commercial break, we will take you on a quick video tour through the history of congressional hearings starring staff lawyers asking the questions in those hearings, something that the attorney general is now pretending is unprecedented. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: As we reported earlier, the attorney general of the United States refused to appear at a House Judiciary Committee hearing this morning because he objected to "Chairman Nadler`s insistence on having staff question the attorney general."
The attorney general said that is "unprecedented." In fact, there is a long history of committee staff, especially committee counsel doing most of the questioning in both Senate hearings and House hearings. That is one of the very few pieces of congressional history that Donald Trump actually knows because Donald Trump`s first lawyer was Roy Cohn who became famous in congressional hearings.
Roy Cohn was never elected to anything. Roy Cohn was a counsel to a committee and he got to ask questions in early days of televised hearings in the 1950s.
That is how Donald Trump knew who Roy Cohn was. That is why Donald Trump and everyone else who hired Roy Cohn wanted Roy Cohn, they saw him on T.V. in those hearings.
Here is a brief video history of some of the people who became big congressional hearing room T.V. stars by doing what the attorney general of the United States now says is unprecedented. Beginning with Bobby Kennedy in the 1950s, back when he was a committee staff lawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT F. KENNEDY, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE LABOR RACKETS COMMITTEE: During the period of the operation of this committee, we`ve had some testimony regarding an individual by the name of Mr. Glenn Smith.
You were employed on January 21, 1969, and continue to be employed until March 14 of this year. Is that correct?
ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: That`s correct.
KENNEDY: Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the oval office of the president?
BUTTERFIELD: I was aware of listening devices. Yes, sir.
SAM DASH, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE WATERGATE COMMITTEE: As soon as the president used his telephone, lifted up his telephone and engaged in a conversation or received a conversation on the president`s phone, the recording device began to record the telephone conversation.
BUTTERFIELD: That`s my understanding, Mr. Dash.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I can`t think of no one better equipped to question the witnesses than Rachel Mitchell.
RACHEL MITCHELL, FORMER INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I know this is stressful and so I would like to set forth some guidelines that maybe will alleviate that a little bit.
CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD, WITNESS, KAVANAUGH HEARING: I understand that a professional prosecutor has been hired to ask me questions and I`m committed to doing my very best to answer them. I have never been questioned by a prosecutor and I will do my best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator Chuck Grassley and the rest of the Republicans in the Senate and the House don`t remember any of that. That`s "Tonight`s Last Word. "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.