ALI VELSHI, NBC NEWS SENIOR ECONOMIC AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Not a happy night to have to deliver this news. Rachel, have a good rest to your weekend.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: I appreciate it. Thanks, Ali.
VELSHI: I`m Ali Velshi, in for Lawrence O`Donnell. We have a lot to get to tonight but we do begin with that breaking news in Virginia Beach where another tragic mass shooting has left at least now 12 people dead.
CERVERA: We are in the process of identifying the victims and making notification to their families. I can tell you that we do have an additional victim to report. We now have 12. One victim succumbed to the injuries on the way to the hospital. We also have four additional victims being treated at area hospitals, and we have reports that others may have self-transported.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: The terror unfolded this afternoon when a city worker entered a municipal building and began firing at co-workers indiscriminately. The rampage continued over multiple floors as police quickly rushed to the scene. The shooter was killed while exchanging gunfire with police in what the police chief described as a long-term gun battle.
At least five people were injured and rushed to the hospital including one police officer who was treated for his injuries. Authorities say his life was saved, thanks to his bulletproof vest. According to the police chief, the gunman was a current and long-time Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities employee, but police declined to comment about a possible motive for the shooting.
Witnesses described frantically running down stairwells or barricading themselves behind desks to escape the barrage of bullets. Listen to how some witnesses describe the horrific scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard shooting. We heard shooting, but we didn`t think it was that close like in proximity of the building, so I just thank God that they were able to alert us in time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lady on the stair unconscious, blood on the stairway. We didn`t know what happened. When she ran upstairs, she found out something else. She came back down saying get out of the building. Guys were shot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just heard people yelling and screaming to get down. I just -- I don`t know what kind of person would do something like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Neither the shooter nor the victims` identities have been released at this time. The words of the mayor, this is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach.
Joining me now is Alyssa Andrews. She was waiting for her daughter nearby when the shooting occurred. Alyssa, you took a photograph that we are going to put up on our air in which you see a man with a policeman with a hand on his shoulder. This man has got blood all over his shirt. Tell us what this was.
ALYSSA ANDREWS, EYEWITNESS TO VIRGINIA BEACH MASS SHOOTING (via telephone): I was in the car with my 1-year-old grandson looking at all this go by, and I saw an officer run with this gentleman and they stood in front of my car. And I didn`t know what happened to him, but I opened the door and I said, "Can I help you? I`m an R.N." The officer said, "No, get back in your car." So I`m not sure.
VELSHI: What did you subsequently learn had happened?
ANDREWS: I don`t know if he was one of the ones that got shot or not. Someone had said it was. So I don`t know. I pray that he`s OK.
VELSHI: This is a remarkable tragedy for any community of any size. But Virginia Beach is not a big place. To have 12 people now -- the police chief is saying 12 people succumbed to their injuries, four in surgery right now. What`s the sense of people you`ve talked to around there?
ANDREWS: It`s unimaginable. You just can`t believe somebody would do such a thing, you know. Innocent people, we were right in the middle and I just, you know, I couldn`t believe what was going on when it went on. It`s just terrible.
VELSHI: And this is a public building. This is a place somebody would go to get their building permits or, you know, things that you need to engage with the municipality of Virginia Beach. So, this wasn`t a place that anybody could have been there.
ANDREWS: Not anybody, yeah. I mean, it`s not like the courthouse where you have to get checked in. Anybody can walk right in, you know. People with kids were there, you know. I don`t even know if they`re one of the fatalities, hopefully not. But we were right in the middle of it. My 1- year-old grandson, thank God, we were safe, and my daughter was in building one.
VELSHI: I always wonder, the police chief said, you know, we have to keep in mind as we report these things and we always talk about who the perpetrator was, but that the victims, the families of the victims, their lives have been changed forever. Twelve people have lost their lives. All of those first responders, their lives are changed.
But really, everybody in your community`s lives had been changed because now Virginia Beach enters the annals of history in the way that you didn`t want to be.
ANDREWS: Absolutely. It`s a sad thing. Virginia Beach is such a beautiful place. You don`t want that to happen anywhere.
VELSHI: How do you feel hours after this? You were right there. You know how close you were and your grandson was to this. How do you -- what does the passage of time make you think?
ANDREWS: My heart is still beating out of my chest right now. I was just terrified. Finally, you know, SWAT was running by and the police officers were right there. I commend them for what they did, for their speediness to get there. But they told us -- told me to get my grandson and get out of the car and run to the next building, you know, when everything went down. So --
VELSHI: It`s remarkable that you say that because you`re an R.N. You`re a nurse. You have seen things. You are not squeamish. You don`t get alarmed by the sight of blood. You saw blood and you thought, "What can I do to help?" But it`s sort of hard to express how helpless everybody feels in a situation like this.
ANDREWS: Absolutely. It`s devastating. And I don`t know if I`ll sleep tonight.
VELSHI: I wouldn`t blame you if you didn`t. Alyssa Andrews was an eyewitness to the Virginia Beach mass murder. She took the picture that you`ll see tonight that we just had on the screen. We`ll show you one more time. It is a man who is in front. She pulled up her car and this man, this police officer and this man with blood all over his shirt were standing in front of her. Alyssa, thank you so much for joining us. I don`t think you will sleep tonight but I hope you do.
Jim Cavanaugh is joining me now. Jim and I have an unusual relationship because the only time he and I ever talk is when something like this has happened. We talk a lot. Jim, we talk. You and I spend a lot of time together analysing, understanding, trying to figure out why this happens over and over and over again uniquely in America.
JIM CAVANAUGH, FORMER ATF SPECIAL AGENT: Yeah. Well, we need (ph) leadership in Washington and people are not committed to it. The voters will change it, Ali, we hope. You know, what strikes so much -- so many details in this press conference to talk about, but from the witness you just interviewed, Alyssa there, you know, their lives are changed.
CAVANAUGH: Well, the killer, the loser killer, that`s what he wants to do.
CAVANAUGH: That`s his goal, mass murder, agony. He wants misery. He wants to die. That`s what he`s trying to do. He comes in there and listening to what the police chief said, he had a 45-caliber handgun with extended magazines and a silencer.
CAVANAUGH: One of the witnesses said, "We heard the shots but we didn`t think they were close."
CAVANAUGH: Well, the reason --
VELSHI: That`s the silencer.
CAVANAUGH: That`s the silencer. So he could have been in the next room.
CAVANAUGH: And you see he`s got that silencer, he`s got that extended magazines, and he`s going through massacring all the people. The chief said it was an extended gun battle with his two detectives and two K-9 officers.
CAVANAUGH: This guy is loading probably these 30-round magazines into that pistol. He has a distinct advantage because when you are shooting with a silencer, you don`t get the loud bang. A 45 will recoil your pistol back, so you cannot get the sight on target quite as quick, it jumps back at you.
But when you put the silencer on there, you get a distinct advantage. It`s much quieter. It`s much better for shooter. And of course, people can`t hear you coming. So, you know, it`s a devastating case.
VELSHI: You don`t know where to run. They don`t know where to hide. And a 45 is a large caliber bullet that does go through little things. If you`re hiding behind something that`s thin, if you`re behind a drywall wall and somebody shoots through it, you`ll get hit, you could get killed.
CAVANAUGH: Exactly, Ali. It has knockdown power. The 45 is designed -- it was a military round. They used it in the early war, World War I, knocked the enemy back from the trenches. They complained about the 38s. There is a lot of different, you know, early wars where these guns were tested. They wanted something to knock the soldiers back, the enemy soldiers that could stop them.
And a 45 had a lot of stopping power and so the military needed it. But, you know, it`s a weapon when in the proper hands for shooters and sportsmen, it`s good. But when it gets out there in the hands of these guys like this, this guy that has a problem, he wants to kill everybody he works with, this is just not a guy going home and getting the gun.
CAVANAUGH: I think that`s the point we should make America look at. He didn`t pull a gun out of his dresser drawer that was in there for 20 years. This guy went and got some kind of gun that he made sure he could kill a lot of people with, large caliber, extended magazines, and the silencer. There`s a lot of purpose. There`s a lot of reason, determination for mass killings.
VELSHI: Let me ask you a quick question. In the time that you`ve been covering this and the time that you`re a veteran of the ATF, you`re a special agent in charge in the time I`ve been a journalist, the way police respond to these things has changed dramatically.
It`s not thought of as a hostage situation. It`s not thought of as setting up a perimeter. These police officers who train for this stuff -- but it`s Virginia Beach, they are dealing with this stuff all the time --went in and engaged in what the police chief called a long-term running gun battle. Cops don`t use that kind of language easily.
CAVANAUGH: That`s right, total heroes, total heroes going in there facing this guy down. They know he`s got something large and he`s spitting all those rounds real fast. They know it`s silenced once they engage him. They know he`s got advantages. So, yes, total heroes, absolutely.
VELSHI: They`re heroes and the lives of those families, those police officers, and the lives of those 12 people who have lost their lives and the four who are in surgery right now are changed forever. Jim, thank you for joining us tonight.
CAVANAUGH: Thanks, Ali.
VELSHI: All right. Coming up, we`ve got a lot of other news today. Attorney General William Barr muddied the waters about Robert Mueller`s report and the reason for not accusing the president of obstruction of justice as members of Congress are facing more pressure about impeachment. That`s next.
VELSHI: Donald Trump`s attorney general, William Barr, now appears to have undermined his own explanation for how and why he cleared Donald Trump of obstruction of justice after the Mueller report. Here`s what he said in a new interview with CBS News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: We didn`t agree with the legal analysis, a lot of the legal analysis in the report. It did not reflect the views of the department. It was the views of a particular lawyer or lawyers. And so we applied what we thought was the right law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: "We didn`t agree with a lot of the legal analysis of the Mueller report, so we applied what we thought was the right law." That`s what William Barr, your attorney general, says now. But that`s not what William Barr told the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, on May 1st.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: We took each of the 10 episodes and we assessed them against the analytical framework that had been set forth by the special counsel. And we concluded that the evidence developed during the special counsel`s investigation was not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now, this distinction is important, because Robert Mueller publicly said that he would have cleared the president of obstruction if he could, but he could not. William Barr then cleared the president based on what he said is the analysis presented by the Mueller report. Until today when Barr said he didn`t agree with the analysis in the Mueller report. Barr was also asked about his investigation of the FBI`s surveillance of the Trump presidential campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAN CRAWFORD, CBS NEWS CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: What have you seen? What evidence? What makes you think, I need to take a look at this?
BARR: Like many other people who are familiar with intelligence activities, I had a lot of questions about what was going on. I assumed I would get answers when I went in and I have not gotten the answers that are well satisfactory, and in fact have probably more questions, and that some of the facts that I`ve learned don`t hang together with the official explanations of what happened.
CRAWFORD: What do you mean by that?
BARR: That`s all I really will say. Things are just not jiving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Things are just not jiving. So if you didn`t hear William Barr present any facts just then to support that politically charged investigation, that`s because he didn`t present any. William Barr probably didn`t lessen the perception that he`s politically motivated when he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: I think one of the ironies today is that people are saying that it`s President Trump that`s shredding our institutions. I really see no evidence of that. From my perspective, the idea of resisting a democratically elected president and basically throwing everything at him and, you know, really changing the norms on grounds that we have to stop this president, that`s where the shredding of our norms and our institutions is occurring.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right. Starting off our discussion tonight are Mieke Eoyang, a former staff member for the House Intelligence Committee and the vice president of the National Security Program at Third Way, and Matt Miller, former spokesperson for Attorney General Eric holder and an MSNBC contributor. Thank you to both of you for joining me on a Friday night.
Matt, William Barr is talking about the shredding of institutions. There are some who are concerned that in his misrepresentation and what appear to be false statements about the Mueller report and the conclusions it did or didn`t draw, that he might actually be doing lasting damage to the Department of Justice.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that`s right. Look, he`s done incredible damage to the department in the short tenure that he`s been there.
I think that remark about the president not being the one who is the victim somehow of an investigation versus the one who is actively out ruining the reputation of law enforcement, hurting the public`s faith in law enforcement, trampling on the wall that traditionally has separated the Justice Department from the White House when it comes to criminal investigations, it`s the kind of remark that Jeff Sessions wouldn`t have dreamed of saying.
We all thought Jeff Sessions was an attorney general who was weak in standing up to President Trump. I think there were a lot of things that were really kind of galling about the attorney general`s presentation today. The way he continued to smear former members of the intelligence community, former members of the FBI without providing any evidence.
Look, he has said he has concerns. Let`s give him the benefit of the doubt that he does. I`m extremely doubtful that he has legitimate concerns. But let`s just pretend he does for a moment. He`s asked the U.S. attorney to conduct an investigation. He ought to shut his mouth until that investigation is over. If there is any evidence at the end of that investigation, he can present it to the public.
In between now and then, it`s completely inappropriate for him to come out with this kind of McCarthy (ph) tactic where he says, I have the secret evidence but I won`t tell what it is, but you ought to have real doubts about the appropriateness of the behavior of people that used to lead this department.
VELSHI: So Mieke, you know, one wonders what you`re supposed to do about this. For decades, we`ve seen presidents assuming more power than some thought the constitution intended for them to have. We hope that if something is not right at the Justice Department, that congressional oversight might come into play. But (INAUDIBLE), we`ve described what Bill Barr is saying to Congress as giving them the middle finger.
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yeah, I think that`s right. You`ve seen real resistance from this Department of Justice not just against Congress but even against the judicial branch. Today, the Department of Justice flat out refused to obey a judicial order about releasing documents and didn`t even offer the judge a reason why or ask for appeal on that.
We see Congress, however, stepping up and saying we are going to aggressively challenge this president on oversight authorities. They`re seeking to enforce their subpoenas. We`ve seen that being fast tracked in the courts.
This is really the only way that you can have Congress rebalance power between the branches from an executive who has taken too much by saying we will not back down, we are going to enforce our powers, we are going to continue to seek the documents that we want, we`re going to hold this president accountable and we`re not going to be cowed by press statements by the attorney general.
If they don`t do that, then you`ll see a president running roughshod over them.
VELSHI: Matt, the judgment that Mieke refers to, the government`s response to that Carol Leonnig from The Washington Post tweeted her reaction to it. "I have never before seen the government tell the judge that his order for materials is not relevant." Kind of amazing.
MILLER: Yeah, it was a very bizarre thing for the Justice Department to do. Look, I`m not that concerned about this one yet. I want to see how this plays out to see whether the Justice Department really is just going to try to thumb their nose at a judge`s order or whether this is the start of a kind of a back and forth between the department and the judge.
The judge did do something weird where he ordered the transcript of the calls between Mike Flynn and the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, to be made public. It was a weird thing. I don`t know why it was relevant to what the judge is doing, at least relevant for it to be made public.
I would expect the Justice Department then to go in and make a filing under seal, kind of requesting the judge not to do that. I think they have legitimate reasons that those ought to stay secret. But for them to thumb their nose at the judge the way they did, I think, was very unusual, a bit troubling.
I want to see if they continue to just kind of resist. That`s when I think it`s time to sort of light our hair on fire and say that they`re resisting a lawful order. I will tell you one thing about this judge. This is not a judge who takes this kind of behavior from the department lying down. I suspect we will see a very fiery response from Emmet Sullivan.
VELSHI: You know, Matt, at least you have hair to set on fire.
MILLER: Less and less every day.
VELSHI: Mieke, Matt was talking about this comment by Barr about the investigation into the FBI. He was asked about this a little more in that CBS interview. I want you to listen to this one with specific reference to the word "treason."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAWFORD: You don`t think that they`ve committed treason?
BARR: That is a legal matter.
CRAWFORD: You have concerns about how they conducted the investigation?
BARR: Yes, but, you know, sometimes people can convince themselves that what they`re doing is in the higher interest, the better good. They don`t realize that what they`re doing is really antithetical to the Democratic system we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Whether or not you believe that, Mieke, whether what he believes the FBI was doing was antithetical to the Democratic system we have, that`s not treason. He said it`s not treason in a legal matter. Treason is actually only a legal matter. It`s defined by law. You can`t kind of just throw that around.
EOYANG: That`s right. What we`ve seen is that this attorney general for all that he`s a lawyer and has been one his entire career is using a lot of words very sloppily to really question the patriotism and the integrity and the institutional objectivity of the law enforcement agencies that he leads.
When he says that the president`s campaign was spied upon, when he says it`s a legal matter about whether or not this is treason, a matter of legal analysis, this wasn`t treason. It`s not like they were working on behalf of a hostile foreign power to say try and obstruct an investigation into what that hostile foreign power had done.
These were people who were concerned about foreign influence who were trying to get to the bottom of that. To say that that is somehow akin to treason or leave that imputation there for listener is really troubling and very sloppy use of language.
VELSHI: If anybody`s concerned about this, look up treason. It is very, very specific in its meaning. You have to be aiding and abetting an enemy of the United States. Technically speaking, the United States doesn`t have enemies. We haven`t been at war with anybody since about World War II.
Thanks to both of you, Mieke Eoyang and Matt Miller. We appreciate spending the evening with you. Coming up, Tom Steyer has been using his own money to fund a campaign for impeaching Donald Trump long before dozens of members of Congress backed it. Tom Steyer joins me next.
VELSHI: Since Robert Mueller`s public statements this week reiterating that he could not exonerate the president of obstruction, the number of House members calling for impeachment or an impeachment inquiry has grown to 53, 52 Democrats and one Republican. That is according to NBC.
My next gest is pretty consistent. He has been calling for Donald Trump`s impeachment since October of 2017, long before we learned of Robert Mueller`s findings. Here is his latest message to Democratic leaders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For over two years, this president has broken the law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And nothing happens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You told us to wait for the Mueller investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he showed obstruction of justice --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When this president --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Took money from foreign governments.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And blocked the release of his tax returns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when his administration illegally refused to testify --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- nothing happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now you tell us to wait for the next election?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our founding fathers expected you --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- Congress --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- to hold a lawless president accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Joining me now is the man funding that ad, Tom Steyer, founder of NextGen Climate and Need to Impeach, a movement to impeach Donald Trump.
Tom Steyer, you and I have discussed this several times. And it does seem like opinion is moving in your direction. The point that you and I have argued about in the past is that this is not something -- impeachment is not something that should be done for political outcome or based on what the political outcome is. But as your ad states, you believe it`s a process that Congress is compelled to undergo.
TOM STEYER, FOUNDER, NEED TO IMPEACH: Absolutely. Ali, this is a question of right and wrong. And there`s no -- we`ve been saying for a year and a half, it`s important for America, it`s important for the American people that this president be held to account.
And that`s really what Mr. Mueller said this week. He said, "I can`t say he`s innocent. I`m not allowed to indict him. It`s up to Congress to do something now."
VELSHI: All right. So at this point, I`ve got 53 legislators, federal legislators, on your side. But you`ve got a couple of people who don`t share your view on this. Jerry Nadler who is probably one of the key people in charge of investigating Donald Trump as the chair of the Judiciary Committee was on Brian Lehrer`s show on WNYC. Here`s what he said about it very specifically.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Again, you can`t impeach the president until the people support it. And you also -- it`s a political act. You also don`t want to divide the country so that half the country is bitter for the next 30 years saying we won the election, you stole it.
You have to develop if it isn`t there. If there is justification which I think there certainly is, you then have to develop the awareness in the country and the agreement basically before you can take the real step of an impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: So I think you would agree with the back half of his statement, right. I think there`s justification. You have to develop the awareness which you have spent a lot of your personal money doing.
But the beginning of it, he says you cannot impeach until the people support it and you don`t want to divide the country. What`s your response?
STEYER: Look, Ali, we`re a grassroots organization. We`ve got over 8 million people who have signed our petition saying the president should be impeached and removed from office.
We think that the way that this should transpire is very similar to what Chairman Nadler says, that there should be televised impeachment hearings so the American people can understand what`s happened. And I believe that they will be disgusted by the behavior of this administration and this president.
And they will insist across party lines and across geographies that, in fact, Americans stand up for their values and do the right thing. So this is very, very different.
From a partisan approach, what we`re saying is Americans around the country across every kind of dividing line will understand and together insist that we come together and do the right thing.
VELSHI: So it`s really logical except that second part of it, the will be removed from -- impeached and removed from office. The removed from office does depend on the Senate under the Constitution.
And we have not seen indications that members of the Senate faced with the same evidence that you and I have read, 438 pages of the Mueller report and lots of other things, seem unmoved.
STEYER: Well, I think that what is going to move them, Ali is what I just said and that is the American people. We believe in the intelligence, the integrity, the bravery of the American people.
And I believe that when their constituents say to them remove this president or we`ll remove you, that these senators will find that that is the exact thing that they`ve always believed was the right thing to do and they will, in fact, change their minds.
It will be the power of the American people itself as it should be that will determine the fate of this president.
VELSHI: Tom, I want to just play for you what Nancy Pelosi said on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Because obviously, Nancy Pelosi is key to whether or not impeachment proceedings move forward. Here`s what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He knows it`s not a good idea to be impeached. Well, the silver lining for him is, then he believes that he would be exonerated by the United States Senate.
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, THE JIMMY KIMMEL SHOW: I see.
PELOSI: And there is a school of thought that says if the Senate acquits you, why bring up charges against him in the private sector when he`s no longer president. So when we go there with our case, it`s got to be ironclad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Do you think Donald Trump thinks that way? Do you think that he`s fishing for impeachment because he feels safe in the Senate?
STEYER: Absolutely the opposite, Ali. I think this is a panicked president who understands that he`s guilty as sin and understands that everybody in Washington, D.C. believes he`s more than met the criteria for impeachment.
In fact, part of the urgency about getting this process going and getting rid of him is the fact that he is panicked and you can see his behavior deteriorating and I expect it will deteriorate every single day between now and November of 2020.
So, in fact, when you see him acting against Mexico with tariffs, you can see a president who is out of control, who is panicked and who is going to be taking irrational decisions to try and move the conversation away from the fact that everybody knows he`s guilty.
VELSHI: Tom Steyer, good to talk to you as always. Thank you for joining me tonight.
STEYER: Ali, it`s great to be here.
VELSHI: Coming up, a shocking new report about the dictator that Donald Trump fell in love with. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We spent pretty much all day with Kim Jong-Un who is -- he`s quite a guy and quite a character and I think our relationship is very strong. I think we`ll end up being very good friends with Chairman Kim and with North Korea and I think they have tremendous potential.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That was Donald Trump after his second summit with Kim Jong-Un in February. Now, it`s being reported that "North Korea has executed its special envoy to the United States on spying charges as its leader Kim Jong-Un has engineered a sweeping purge of the country`s top nuclear negotiators after the breakdown of his second summit meeting with President Trump".
A major South Korean Daily reported on Friday. The envoy was executed by firing squad in march at the Mirim Airfield in a suburb of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. South Korea`s largest daily newspaper reported on Friday citing an anonymous source.
Neither American news outlets nor South Korean officials have independently confirmed the execution. That`s not necessarily surprising since North Korea is the most isolated country on earth.
The "BBC" notes that there have been previous reports of executions that have turned out to be untrue but it adds, "The report is plausible. These key officials have been out of the public eye since the summit in February. Kim Jong-Un is clearly angry at the outcome of his talks with Donald Trump and may have been looking for someone to blame."
Kim Jong-Un has carried out executions in the past. In 2013, Mr. Kim`s powerful uncle was executed for treason. Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration is investigating the report. Its plausibility serves as a stark reminder about the character of President Trump`s potential very good friend Kim Jong-Un.
Joining me now, Freshman Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ), MEMBER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Thank you.
VELSHI: Let`s just -- it gets lost in the normalization of the discussion of North Korea and Kim Jong-Un that the president is not simply trying to move the needle forward on our relations with North Korea but he has benefited from, he has praised, he has given Kim Jong-Un two international stages on which to become legitimized.
MALINOWSKI: Yes, he`s fallen in love with Kim Jong-Un. Look, I don`t know if Kim killed his negotiators. I`m afraid the president of the United States has killed our negotiators.
This is the problem here. Back in March, the administration imposed new sanctions on North Korea. The next day, Trump rescinded those sanctions and the White House says said it was because he liked Kim Jong-Un.
Then our negotiators tried to get a permanent freeze on missile testing in North Korea. Trump goes to Japan, the country most threatened by North Korean missiles and says that it`s no big deal, that they`re testing these missiles.
So imagine being an American diplomat today. You`re negotiating with Russia, with Iran, with North Korea, with anybody. You may not get killed by a firing squad, you will be killed by a tweet.
VELSHI: But if you`re a diplomat and folks don`t take anything you say seriously because the president says something else, the president contradicted his own Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan. Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan said Wednesday that North Korea`s recent missile tests are a violation of the United Nations` resolutions, an assessment that contradicts comments made by President Donald Trump.
This is what Trump said. "Let me be clear, these were short-range missiles. Those are a violation of the UNSCR." That`s what Shanahan said, he told reporters.
So Shanahan, Bolton, both said that North Korea was in contradiction of U.N. resolutions and the president said he didn`t really think so.
MALINOWSKI: Right. So if you`re a foreign leader, a foreign government, why listen to the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State or anybody who is negotiating on our behalf?
You`re going to want to get into a room with the president of the United States because you`ve noticed that you can flatter him into agreeing with you, maybe by attacking Joe Biden, for example, or just simply by praising the president.
And that`s dangerous. That`s what`s important about this. It`s not just that it`s disgraceful that he`s in love with Kim Jong-Un. It`s that it undermines our ability to conduct diplomacy in the national interest.
VELSHI: What do we make -- again, there are so many things that we have to draw attention to that some things that otherwise would have been headline news for days, sort of follow by the wayside. The comment about Joe Biden, Kim Jong-Un insulting Joe Biden`s I.Q. and Donald Trump sort of letting that go and said that he -- said he agrees with him.
That`s the kind of thing that we have for decades in this country felt inappropriate that once you leave the shores of this country, you don`t take your political arguments with you.
MALINOWSKI: Well, sometimes you do, right? That rule has often been broken but I can`t think of a time when an American president has quoted an evil dictator in opposition to an American like Joe Biden, a former vice president, somebody who is respected in this country.
You know, if Barack Obama had done that if George Bush had done that, if Bill Clinton had done that, that there would have been absolutely no tolerance of that sort of behavior. And so it`s what it says about what we`re willing to tolerate now that really disturbs me.
We know about Trump. It`s what he`s doing to our body politic that I worry about.
VELSHI: So your perspective on the reports of the USS John McCain, you know, because Donald Trump didn`t want to see it, you actually have a more serious concern about this than the idea that somebody was perhaps appeasing the president who didn`t like John McCain.
Your concern is the idea that it`s actually the military. So this is not a conference where you hide somebody`s chair or you hide somebody`s name. This is the United States Military which is not supposed to be politicized.
MALINOWSKI: Exactly. So if the military is now so afraid of making the president angry that they`ll hide John McCain`s name, what else are they going to hide to avoid making him angry? Intelligence on Iran, on Russia, on North Korea. That is serious.
That`s something that -- you know, we can`t have a servile military any more than we can have a servile Department of Justice. These institutions have to be above politics.
They have to be willing to speak truth to power on behalf of our national interests. They serve the country, not a man.
VELSHI: Let`s talk about this discussion I was just having with Tom Steyer about impeachment. There does seem to be a growing push for amongst your colleagues for people who want to begin some sort of impeachment inquiry. Jerry Nadler, Nancy Pelosi and other members of leadership in the Democratic Party say, "We`ve got a process. It`s underway. Let`s not rush to something."
And some are warning that there might be political consequences as there were for Republicans going after Bill Clinton. What`s your take?
MALINOWSKI: I wasn`t there even a week or two ago but I`m at a point where enough already. I`ve concluded that the rule of law in this country can survive bad people trying to violate it. It can`t survive the hesitation of good people to defend it.
And at a certain point, it looks like hesitation if, you know, people are being ordered not to obey lawful subpoenas, if the Justice Department is being turned into a political weapon against the president`s enemies, if the intelligence community is being told you have to give up secrets that our allies have shared with us so that the attorney general can persecute the FBI.
At some point, you`ve got to stop screaming about it, you have to speak more softly and carry a bigger stick.
VELSHI: And so how does that discussion go amongst Democrats?
MALINOWSKI: I think it`s a very difficult dilemma for us because Speaker Pelosi is absolutely right about the Senate. And you know, a lot of prosecutors won`t bring a case if they don`t think they can get a conviction in their jurisdiction.
But again, I think at the end of the day, in the face of these kinds of offenses against the rule of law, there has to be some institutions in Washington that`s willing to say, there is a line that cannot be crossed because if nobody says that, there`s no line.
VELSHI: Congressman, good to see you. Thank you for joining us.
MALINOWSKI: Thank you, sir.
VELSHI: Congressman Tom Malinowski.
Coming up, some legislators are admitting that they`re passing anti- abortion laws hoping that challenges to those laws get in front of the Supreme Court with two Trump appointees. What happens if that strategy worked? Supreme Court expert Jeffrey Rosen is my next guest.
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CROWD: We are open. We are open. We are open. We are open. We are open.
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VELSHI: That was the scene outside the St. Louis Planned Parenthood, the only abortion services provider in the State of Missouri. Today, the United States came the closest it has come in nearly half a century to having a United States, a state, with absolutely no access to legal abortion services.
For years, the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, Missouri, has been that state`s one and only abortion services provider. That facility was set to close today after Missouri`s Republican Governor, Mike Parson, announced that a state audit found what he called "a number of serious health concerns" at the facility.
The clinic Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region says the audit`s results were politically motivated and that the state had made unreasonable requests in order to try and force the clinic to close.
In a ruling this afternoon, Missouri`s Circuit Court Judge Michael F. Stelzer ruled that the clinic would be able to remain open as the case works its way through the courts. Writing that such a decision was, "necessary to preserve the status quo and prevent irreparable injury."
This ruling comes just one week after that same Missouri governor signed into law a ban on all abortions in the state after eight weeks of pregnancy. The latest in a series of restrictive abortion laws around the country.
On Wednesday, Louisiana`s Democratic anti-abortion Governor John Bell Edwards signed into law a similarly restrictive ban on abortions after six weeks. A period during which some women don`t even know that they are pregnant.
This is all part of an effort by anti-abortion forces around the country to push the issue to the United States Supreme Court to try to get the court`s conservative majority to overturn the landmark precedent in Roe V. Wade, which codified the right to an abortion in the United States.
Earlier this evening, the former head of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards joined my colleague Chris Hayes and issued this stark warning.
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CECILE RICHARDS, FORMER HEAD, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: This is not a drill. This is no longer an intellectual question. Roe is absolutely at risk and so is the healthcare and wellbeing of millions of women in this country.
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VELSHI: There is no way of knowing how the Supreme Court will rule on a challenge to Roe V. Wade if it chooses to rule on one at all but antiabortion advocates are confident that this Supreme Court may be willing to overturn one of the most important rulings of the last hundred years.
But here`s the thing to consider. Regardless of where you stand on abortion, let alone the legality of it, Roe was not just a landmark case for abortion rights but for American legal jurisprudence, and specifically, as it related to privacy.
So what would it mean for the future of our legal system, indeed, our expectation of privacy, if Roe V. Wade were to fall? Joining me to help answer that question is Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center and author of the book "The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America" and several other books on the presidency and the court.
Jeff, thank you for being with us tonight. The decision in Roe was based on a broader understanding of the right to privacy as outlined in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. So the question I have for you tonight is, what might the unintended consequences of challenging Roe because of one`s belief about abortion, what could those unintended consequences be?
JEFF ROSEN, PRESIDENT & CEO, NATIONAL CONSTITUTION CENTER: Well, you`re absolutely right that Roe is based on a notion of privacy. It came from a case called Griswold V. Connecticut, that recognized a married couple`s right to use continue contraception.
So in theory, that right could be at risk if any state wanted to restrict contraception again. But Roe was extended in cases most notably the marriage equality case which rooted its recognition of the right of all people to marry those whom they loved and ideas of privacy, dignity, and autonomy.
So jurisprudentially, even the marriage equality cases could be at risk if Roe were to fall. But what`s so significant about this recent challenges is that states like Missouri and Alabama and Georgia are now going a step further, they`re saying that the fetus is a full constitutionally protected person from the moment of conception.
And if the court in overturning Roe were to agree that states have the right or even the obligation under the Constitution to recognize fetal personhood, then a whole series of other laws and understandings could fall. People could be required to pay child support for unborn fetuses.
It would be possible that a couple that used in vitro fertilization and destroyed an embryo in the course of doing that could be prosecuted for homicide. And even more significantly, a noncitizen who is pregnant, a woman, might not be able to be deported unless her unborn pre-citizen fetus had some kind of judicial hearing.
So in other words, the consequences of recognizing fetal personhood in the law has been constitutionally protected could be very, very sweeping, indeed. And that`s why this strategy is so significant and really deserves our close attention.
VELSHI: So I`m way in over my head at this point but I`m going to ask you about a quote from the 1974 decision, Mitchell V. W.T. Grant, that was actually quoted in the 1991 case, Planned Parenthood V. Casey about changing established decisions or stare decisis, established law based on the Supreme Court`s makeup.
The quote is this. "A basic change in the law upon a ground no firmer than a change in our membership invites the popular misconception that this institution," meaning the Supreme Court," is little different than the two political branches of government. No misconception could do more lasting injury to this court and to the system of law which is our abiding mission to serve."
This was written in 1974 for decision. It was quoted by O`Connor, Kennedy, and Souter in 1991. Does this still hold?
ROSEN: Well, it`s a concern of many justices, most importantly, the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts. He`s very concerned about institutional legitimacy.
In a decision last year emphasizing the importance of precedent, he expressed concern that citizens might think of the court as political if its decisions change based on its membership. And he has embraced the same three criteria that that decision you cited, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, used in evaluating whether decisions should be overturned.
First, has society come to rely on them? Second, have facts changed? And third, would -- has the decision become unworkable?
And those are the same considerations that he would weigh now. The conventional wisdom for better or for worse at the moment is that the chief is not eager to hear cases that would directly challenge Roe.
That`s why just this week, the court unanimously refused to consider a challenge to the heart of an Indiana law that restricted sex-selection- based abortion, so an institutionally-minded chief has also persuaded Justice Kavanaugh in a case involving privileges of hospitals to vote against hearing the case because he does not seem at the moment to be in a rush to overturn Roe.
But what`s so significant about this debate is that the states are making it harder and harder for the court to duck this question by embracing these broad claims about fetal personhood that Justice Blackman in Roe, himself, acknowledged strike at the core of the reasoning in Roe V. Wade.
VELSHI: I`ve got 30 seconds left. I want to ask you does the issue of whether a justice thinks a case in the past was in their opinion wrongly decided come into play here?
ROSEN: Yes. Those three criteria apply even if the justice thinks a case was wrongly decided as Justice Kennedy and Justice O`Connor and Justice Souter may have done when they upheld the core Roe V. Wade,
They`re still not supposed to overturn that case if society has come to rely on it if the facts haven`t changed, and if the decision isn`t unworkable. So those are the three criteria and they`re going to be hugely important along with this overwhelming question you identified. So important, Ali, of the chief justice and his concern about institutional legitimacy.
VELSHI: Jeffrey Rosen, it`s my pleasure to see you tonight. Thank you for joining us. That is tonight`s LAST WORD.
THE 11TH HOUR with Brian Williams, begins right now.