LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And those are important interviews you have coming up, that`s for sure. They`re very important. But how can they possibly, possibly be as exciting as -- as tonight`s interview? There is nothing like watching a Rachel Maddow interview where Rachel Maddow is so excited, as she was tonight.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes, excited, nervous, I`ve sweated through my suit, the whole thing. Like, I`m actually more nervous now that she`s gone than I was when she was here. I`m like flop sweat through the whole rest of the show.
It`s very exciting. Did you watch --
O`DONNELL: Of course, of course. Wouldn`t miss a minute of it.
MADDOW: I watched the entire thing standing up and jumping up and down.
O`DONNELL: Yes, so it was a workout for you, that game.
MADDOW: The only one I`ve had all week.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, here is something we`ve never seen before, and that is something we say a lot in Trump world, the attorney general of the United States says on Monday he`s recusing himself from the case and the next day, today, he says he`s not recusing himself from the case. Attorney General William Barr has changed his mind and decided he will supervise the new sex trafficking case against Donald Trump`s old friend Jeffrey Epstein.
We will consider why the attorney general should recuse himself, including the fact that his father hired Jeffrey Epstein many years ago and why the attorney general has decided to unrecuse himself. We`ll discuss that later in this hour.
Also later in the hour, former CIA Director John Brennan will join us to discuss the president`s reaction to the British ambassador to the United States telling the truth about the president of the United States in his diplomatic communications with London, communications that have now leaked.
Those communications show exactly how well the British ambassador understands the president of the United States and the people who work for the president of the United States and why the ambassador told the British government to never expect Donald Trump to change or expect his White House staff to ever become competent. We`ll discuss that later in the hour.
But we begin tonight with the breaking news exclusive by NBC News. A report on the treatment of children by U.S. border agents which includes an allegation of sexual assault. The report first published on NBCnews.com by Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley details the findings of some government investigators who have been interviewing children held in Arizona.
Julia Ainsley will join us in a moment to discuss her reporting, including the sexual assault of a teenage girl. A 15-year-old girl from Honduras described a large bearded officer putting his hands inside her bra, pulling down her underwear and groping her as part of what was meant to be a routine pat-down in front of other immigrants and officers. The girl said she felt embarrassed as the officer was speaking in English to other officers and laughing during the entire process, according to a report of her account.
A teenage boy accused officers of calling the boys puto, Spanish slang for male prostitute.
NBC News reports in nearly 30 accounts obtained from significant incident reports prepared between April 10th and June 12th by case managers for the Department of Health and Human Services, the department responsible for migrant children after they leave CBP custody, kids who spent time in the Yuma border station repeatedly described poor conditions that are not pure byproducts of overcrowding. They reported being denied a phone call, not being offered a shower, sleeping on concrete or outside, with only with a Mylar blanket and feeling hungry before their 9:00 p.m. dinner time.
Joining us now is Julia Ainsley, one of the reporters who broke the story. She`s a national security and justice reporter for NBC News.
And, Julia, this is extraordinary reporting. As I read it, it`s based on government reports of what`s going on in this facility.
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER FOR NBC NEWS: And that`s key, Lawrence, because it`s not that this is coming from their individual lawyers and that the government has not been aware of this behavior. Some of these interviews date back to April. They go from mid- April to mid-June, and these are routine interviews.
When a child is taken out of Border Patrol custody and placed in the hands of health and human services, they`re assigned a case worker, and the first thing that person does is sit down with the child and talk about everything they`ve been through and often times they describe what they went through in Border Patrol custody. So, Jacob and I went through dozens of these and we found these incidents that are new to us and new to you and I tonight, but they are not new to the government, and I think that`s really key, that they`ve known about this for some time, particularly the sexual assault allegation.
We went to DHS and they said that that this under investigation by their inspector general but they couldn`t answer basic questions like, is this large bearded officer that she described still employed by Customs and Border Protection? Has he had any kind of punishment or recourse? What was the result of this?
And at first that initial intake the officer said, no, there will be no investigation. So at this point we think they`re looking into it. We don`t know how long it took them. Also, what this really does if you zoom back. We`ve heard a lot of reports about terrible conditions because of overcrowding in El Paso, Texas, like that Clint, Texas border facility we`ve been talking about for weeks and also in Rio Grande Valley.
This widens it to Arizona, which shows it`s not just happening in Texas, there is something systemic in border protection where these agents are not being held accountable and it`s more than just an overcrowding problem. Overcrowding doesn`t cause sexual assault. Overcrowding doesn`t cause agents to come in and retaliate against children who are upset because they`re getting poor water and poor food and take away the only mats they have to sleep on. Overcrowding doesn`t mean you don`t offer a child a shower.
So we`re seeing something that is systematic and I think there are still more questions than answer, unfortunately.
O`DONNELL: Julia, this comes after a big "New York Times" and "El Paso Times" combined team reporting in Sunday`s "New York Times" about what they find going on in the facility, the border patrol station at Clint, Texas. And one of the things that was included in that report were unnamed border patrol agents talking about how they were reporting this kind of thing up the ladder, up the chain of the command and nothing was happening, and it`s actually -- repeatedly a very sympathetic portrayal of some border patrol agents, at least some of them who refer to the conditions as heartbreaking.
How do you square that reporting with this reporting and did -- in any of the government reports about what these children experienced, did any of those children report positive experiences with border patrol agents or feeling the sympathies of border patrol agents?
AINSLEY: So I think we have to look at the context of these reports. They would only do a report with their case manager if they experienced something troubling. So, we aren`t going to get glowing reports of border agents coming to their rescue. That isn`t something that we saw. We saw more of the reports of the negative behavior. But I think that is what would trigger a report like this to be filed in the first place.
But, yes, reporting that Jacob and I have done previously did show that border agents have been concerned about this in the past. They were even in El Paso arming themselves because they were worried about riots because they saw how these people were being treated. Some of them were going into early retirement because they just couldn`t take the treatment -- they couldn`t take their jobs and the way these immigrants were being treated in their custody. They felt overwhelmed.
So I don`t want to say that all of these border agents aren`t doing this job, but there is clearly something going on here when the concerns of those border agents aren`t being heard and then the concerns of these children aren`t being heard by officials in Washington in a timely matter.
What we`ve heard over and over again from officials here like Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan is that they simply need more space. In Yuma, they did open a soft-sided facility in the end of June to move more children there just outside the border station where all these incidents took place. And yes, that alleviates overcrowding. That would alleviate the problem.
One boy described in this report where he had to wait for someone to stand up before he could find a place to lie down and go to sleep. It alleviates that. But it doesn`t alleviate the misconduct that we`ve seen and it doesn`t hold accountability for a lot of these situations that we`ve heard of, not just in Yuma, but across the border.
O`DONNELL: Julia Ainsley, please stay with us as we`re joined in our discussion by two Democratic Congress congresswomen from California who visited the facilities in El Paso, and in Clint, Texas, last week, Congresswoman Judy Chu and Congresswoman Nanette Barragan joining us now.
And, Congresswoman, I want you to know Julia`s still here if you want to ask her anything about what she found. I just want to add to her reporting to you, Congresswoman Barragan, let me begin with you.
She talks about retaliation, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy reports that when they complained about the taste of water and food they were given, the Border Patrol agents took the mats out of their cells in retaliation, forcing them to sleep on hard concrete. These are the reports of the negative experiences that the children are having.
REP. NANETTE BARRAGAN (D-CA): It`s the pretty sick and disturbing that you have border agents retaliating if a child is saying that the water tastes bad. I mean, to punish them so that they can`t sleep or have to sleep on a hard floor is very disturbing, Lawrence. This is why we need to make sure that Congress has the ability to go into these facilities, to have oversight provisions, but then making sure we`re holding people accountable. This is completely unacceptable.
O`DONNELL: And, Congresswoman Chu, Julia`s reporting also shows that the children don`t know whether it`s day or night because the lights are kept on 24 hours a day. They don`t really have a sense of time, and other kind of sense deprivation that they`re constantly going through.
REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA): The conditions that were described were absolutely horrifying, and these reports even go one step further with the sexual assault. It does remind me of what we saw at Clint, and it shows that there is a huge problem with the Customs and Border Patrol. There is a callousness on the part of the CBP agents, which we saw, of course, in their Facebook posts that showed them laughing at the deaths of migrants.
So, there is a problem from the grassroots CBP agents all the way up to the very top, I think, and that`s why we do need to hold them accountable. That`s what our house bill would have done. We need to make sure that there are minimum standards of medical care, hygiene and nutrition and accountability as far as where these funds go.
The funds that we just allocated better go to improving the conditions of these facilities, so that these people can be treated humanely.
O`DONNELL: And, Congresswoman Barragan, Julia Ainsley`s reporting is pointing directly to where this information is in governments. Are these reports that the Congress is going to be able to obtain?
BARRAGAN: We should be getting these reports and it`s disturbing that Congress has not heard about this. We`ve certainly had different officials come before Congress. Nobody has brought this up. As a matter of fact, when we had an official from ORR come in and was asked about sexual allegations, abuse allegations, they almost got offended by it.
And so, this is critically important that Congress be informed about what is happening so we can continue to have oversight. And, Lawrence, I begin to wonder whether we need to have new procedures in place where we have female officers overseeing young girls at these facilities and not letting the men do it. It`s just disturbing when you hear about this, and then to hear that there was going to be no investigation, completely unacceptable and we have to do something to stop this from happening and exposing other young girls to people like this, if this is what is going on.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Chu, there is an accusation of sexual assault in Julia`s reporting, but that`s coming from a government report. It`s a government report that the Congress has not seen.
Is there a way for the Congress to get every possible report of any accusation of sexual abuse in these facilities?
CHU: We need to get those reports and we can get those reports. We need to make sure that this sexual assault is investigated, but even more importantly, we need to make sure that there is fundamental change in what`s going on.
Now, when we went to Clint, I was just shocked that the head supervising border patrol agent just denied all the accounts that we had heard. We know that when the Flores immigration attorneys went to investigate, 60 children reported pretty much the same horrific conditions and now we have nearly 30 accounts of what is taking place at the Yuma facility.
This head agent denied everything. But you know what? I believe the children. And we should all believe the children. And we have to change these conditions.
O`DONNELL: Julia Ainsley, quickly, is there any way for -- in your reporting to determine how common this negative experience is? Is it something that most of the children experience? Is there a way of putting it into some kind of shape in terms of how common this is?
AINSLEY: That`s a really good question. I mean, what I would need to ask Health and Human Services is, out of all of the interviews you do with the thousands of children that are coming to your custody, how many of them report -- do the significant incident reports. I haven`t gotten that answer.
But it is clear, you know, what Jacob and I reviewed, Jacob Soboroff, my colleague, what we reviewed is just the tip of the iceberg. We understand there were hundreds of other reports from Yuma. We`re just getting our hands on the first batch now. So, there are more where this comes from.
O`DONNELL: Julia Ainsley, thank you for joining us. Thank you for your reporting.
And, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congresswoman Nanette Barragan, thank you for starting off our discussion tonight. I really appreciate it.
CHU: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you all. Thank you.
And when we come back, the attorney general recused himself yesterday and then put himself back on the case today. Attorney General Barr is now supervising the sex trafficking prosecution of a defendant who the attorney general`s father worked with many years ago. In fact, the attorney general`s father hired Jeffrey Epstein to teach young boys and young girls at a private school in New York City. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: In a stunning reversal today, the attorney general of the United States announced that he will take control of the new federal prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of Donald Trump`s, an old friend of Donald Trump`s who has been charged with sex trafficking of young girls in federal court in New York City. After the dramatic surprise arrest of Jeffrey Epstein by the FBI when his private plane landed in New Jersey in - - from Paris and after Jeffrey Epstein was dragged into federal court in Manhattan on Monday, pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail by a federal judge. After all of that, Attorney General William Barr was asked about the biggest new criminal case in the justice department yesterday, the Jeffrey Epstein case, and the attorney general very clearly said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I`m recuse from that matter. Because one of the law -- one of the law firms that represented Epstein long ago was a firm that I subsequently joined for a period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was yesterday. Today, the attorney general said nothing about the Jeffrey Epstein case, but the attorney general did order an unnamed Justice Department official to leak to selected news media that the attorney general will not recuse himself from the new Jeffrey Epstein case.
Bloomberg reported the news this way: Attorney General William Barr won`t recuse himself from involvement in the new charges filed against alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein by federal prosecutors in New York. According to a Justice Department official, Barr made the decision on Tuesday after consulting with career ethics officials at the department, said the official who asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive matter.
But Barr has recused himself from any retrospective review of the Justice Department`s decision more than a decade ago, letting Epstein avoid prosecution on federal sex trafficking offenses in Florida.
It is impossible for William Barr to recuse himself from a review of what happened in the sex trafficking case against Jeffrey Epstein in Florida because that is a central part of Jeffrey Epstein`s defense in the new case. One of Epstein`s lawyers told the judge at his arraignment yesterday that the deal Jeffrey Epstein made with federal prosecutors in Florida means that Jeffrey Epstein cannot now be charged by federal prosecutors in New York.
The attorney told the judge in Manhattan that the Florida deal will be a central part of Epstein`s defense. He said that the Florida deal was, quote, a global resolution of the federal charges against Jeffrey Epstein.
And so, the attorney general is not telling the truth. What is the attorney general afraid of? Why didn`t the attorney general himself announce his new position on recusal today since he publicly said yesterday that he was recused from the case?
Why is the attorney general afraid of explaining this publicly himself? Why is the attorney general insisting that the Justice Department official who leaked the information not even be named in the news reports? Why did this new position on recusal have to be leaked and not delivered to all of the news media in a written press release? What is William Barr up to? What is he is afraid of?
That is the question tonight in the Jeffrey Epstein case. And as we reported at this hour last night, the attorney general has an even stronger reason to recuse himself than the one he mentioned yesterday. Attorney General Barr`s father hired Jeffrey Epstein to be a math teacher at the Dalton School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan when the attorney general`s father was the headmaster of that elite and very expensive private school.
William Barr`s father hired Jeffrey Epstein to teach high school boys and high school girls even though Jeffrey Epstein is not even a college graduate. That is now and was then unthinkable in a school like Dalton. A year later, William Barr`s father abruptly resigned from the Dalton School after the board of trustees decided to investigate the way William Barr`s father was running that school. And not long after that, Jeffrey Epstein left the school and started his new life on Wall Street.
Should the attorney general of the United States be supervising a prosecution of a criminal defendant who was hired by and worked for the attorney general`s father? The attorney general first recused himself yesterday then unrecused himself today and is not telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth about his multiple recusal decisions. As we so often say in the world of Donald Trump, we have never seen anything like this. No attorney general of the United States has ever made a series of recusal decisions like this.
Joining our discussion now, Mimi Rocah, former U.S. assistant attorney in the Southern District of New York, and Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive programming at Sirius XM Radio. Both are MSNBC contributors.
And, Mimi, I was hoping we could have you here tonight because you`re a veteran of the Southern District of New York, the district that brought this prosecution against Jeffrey Epstein, where suddenly the attorney general has flipped in a day and decided he does want to be involved in it. What do you make of yesterday`s statement by the attorney general on recusal and today`s leak that he`s not recused from the new Epstein case?
MIMI ROCAH, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I`m very vary. And you asked all the right questions and are highlighting all of the things about this that just send up, you know, red flags. First of all, why -- if Bill Barr says I`m going to recuse because of my connection to Kirkland & Ellis, which was the law firm at which Jay Lefkowitz, who is one of Epstein`s main attorneys back negotiating that sweetheart slap on the wrist plea deal that Epstein got from Acosta back in Florida.
So, it`s not just that, you know, Barr was affiliated with a law firm. It`s a law firm that was really at the center of this controversy.
O`DONNELL: But Barr says he wasn`t at the law firm at the time of this case.
ROCAH: OK. But, you know, you join a law firm, I mean, was Lefkowitz there? Is he friends with Lefkowitz?
ROCAH: It`s about -- it`s not just any law firm, it`s not -- I don`t think that anyone who`s worked at any law firm ever, but in this case, the relationship, the role of Jay Lefkowitz in that law firm with Acosta in that plea, I mean, there is a meeting between Acosta and Lefkowitz offsite during these plea negotiations that is highly inappropriate, so much at the center of, you know, where Lefkowitz basically gets an agreement from Acosta not to tell the victims about the plea and he follows up with an email.
And that`s how we know about it. He says thank you for your agreement, Mr. Acosta, U.S. attorney, to not tell the victims about this plea deal.
So, Barr`s connection to that law firm is problematic. I`m not sure it was mandatory recusal, but he said he was going to recuse because of that. To now draw this artificial line and say, well, I`m recused from that Florida part as you point out, but not the part going forward is a completely artificial line that all of a sudden is drawn the day after this, you know, bombshell case comes out from the southern district of New York that I`m sure is making Donald Trump, amongst others, very nervous. And his buddy Epstein for sure because it`s a strong case.
And so it just looks so bad. And this -- the bottom line is when you have an attorney general that you can`t trust is defending justice and looking out for the Department of Justice, that`s where this problem really comes to light. We cannot have faith in Bill Barr, and that`s where his whole history so far is now just, you know, coming to the fore.
O`DONNELL: So, Zerlina, Bill Barr`s father --
ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
O`DONNELL: -- his father hired Jeffrey Epstein, who he knew was not a college graduate. Jeffrey Epstein took a couple of college courses in physics. And he hired him at one of the most expensive private schools in Manhattan to teach math, knowing he wasn`t a college graduate.
Bill Barr knows, he knows tonight that his father hired Jeffrey Epstein. He may have known it at the time that his father hired Jeffrey Epstein.
O`DONNELL: He may have known Jeffrey Epstein at that time. We don`t know.
MAXWELL: We don`t know.
O`DONNELL: But he does -- he`s not recusing himself because of that.
MAXWELL: Well, the thing that`s so weird to me is not in isolation that he hired him without, you know, the requisite experience. It`s that, you know, sexual predation of this type, it`s not something that starts when you`re 35 or 45, right? If, you know, that`s consistent and holds here and obviously the prosecution yesterday made an eloquent presentation sort of explaining some of this. He probably had some of these bare behaviors that folks were aware of at the time.
So, the fact you`re hiring someone who has no experience and this predation towards teenage girls, at least that we know, we don`t know about the boys, but we at least know that he has a predation towards teenage girls and is trafficking girls, according to the paperwork filed yesterday. That`s what bothers me. It`s not hiring an inexperienced person.
Maybe he had great relationships. People get jobs all the time. It`s the fact that he`s a predator and you`re placing him with potential victims and nobody`s stepping in to say, wait, hold up, this person, we need to go more research on this person and do a background check.
And then you see this person for decades. I think that, you know, we`ve learned a lot in the #metoo era about enablers. We`ve learned a lot about the fact that people are not predatory in isolation, that there are people around that individual that are allowing it to continue, whether it be assistants to Jeffrey Epstein who are -- or young women who are going out to recruit additional victims.
There is a circle of people that are -- that all need to be held accountable and not just Jeffrey Epstein, and I think Bill Barr`s father is in that group and I think Donald Trump and his associates are in that group. So, I`m sure Donald Trump may be nervous today, but I`m sheer the people who hang out with Donald Trump are also nervous today.
O`DONNELL: Mimi, we`re going to squeeze in a break here quickly. But on Barr and his father. You`re the Attorney General the United States. Let`s us - let`s imagine a situation which your defendant like this eventually decides he`s going to tell everything. For whatever reason may or may not develop he`s going to tell everything.
And that story begins when he`s a high school teacher at the high school where your father hired him and you are now the unrecused Attorney General of the United States who`s supervising that prosecution.
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, I mean if that develops factually, I mean, that would be an unwaiveable (ph), surmountable conflict. I mean some--
O`DONNELL: But recusal is about getting out before the conflict arises. Right?
ROCAH: Yes. No, absolutely. And that is why - I mean whether he needs to or not because of the law firm, because of what his father did. He should get out. He said he was going to get out and it is very suspicious to me that all of a sudden the day after this bombshell case, "Oh, no, not out from this". And it just looks bad and part of recusal is about giving people faith in this justice system.
O`DONNELL: One more quick thing, it`s entirely possible that William Barr discovered this prosecution the same time the rest of us did. It`s entirely possible the Southern District did not alert him and so he wasn`t in a position to stop it before the arrest and they in the arena.
ROCAH: Exactly. And that`s why I`m saying it`s suspicious that this is happening the day after, because he would not necessarily have known Acosta--
O`DONNELL: OK. We have lot more to talk about including what Donald Trump said about Jeffrey Epstein today and Alex Acosta. We will do that right after this break.
O`DONNELL: At the very same time when Jeffrey Epstein was trafficking in, having sex with and raping young girls according to federal prosecutors, new indictment of Jeffrey Epstein, Donald Trump called Jeffrey Epstein a terrific guy at that very same time. And Donald Trump said that he knew that Jeffrey Epstein pursued girls who were, in Donald Trump`s phrase at the time, quote "On the younger side".
At the very same time that Donald Trump was praising Jeffrey Epstein as a terrific guy and saying that he quote "He`s a lot of fun to be with" and that he pursues young girls - girls on the younger side. At that very same time that Donald Trump said that, prosecutors now say Jeffrey Epstein was a criminal sex trafficker in young girls.
And today the President was asked about Jeffrey Epstein, and of course what the President had to say was a lie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don`t think I`ve spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn`t a fan. I was not - yes, a long time ago. I`d say maybe 15 years. I was not a fan of his that I can tell you. I was not a fan of his--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He was a fan. He said Jeffrey Epstein was a terrific guy. He said Jeffrey Epstein was a lot of fun to be with, and Donald Trump knew. Donald Trump knew, as he said publicly at the time, that Jeffrey Epstein pursued girls "on the younger side".
Today, the President expressed sympathy not for the girls who Jeffrey Epstein is accused of sexually abusing, but for Alex Acosta who was the federal prosecutor in Florida who made very forgiving with Jeffrey Epstein over 10 years ago on similar charges. A deal that meant Jeffrey Epstein served no federal prison time. Alex Acosta is now Donald Trump`s Labor Secretary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I feel very badly actually for Secretary Acosta, because I`ve known him as being somebody that works so hard and has done such a good job. I feel very badly about that whole situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And back with us Mimi Rocah and Zerlina Maxwell. Zerlina he feels very badly for Alex Acosta.
MAXWELL: Yes, he always seems to side with the person either accused of rape or somebody who`s covering up a crime, and that`s backwards. We should have our empathy place squarely with the victims in this case who were very young and all whom are recovering from the trauma they experienced as teenagers, because that`s a lifelong recovery process. That`s not something you get over overnight.
But in addition, I think, that there`s a compound effect when it comes to Donald Trump. I am a firm believer that there is eventually going to be a reckoning for Donald Trump around all of these instances of sexual assault, sexual misconduct and all of these examples where he`s siding with people who are accused of those similar crimes.
And the reason I say that is, because while the people that support him don`t care, the people that do not support him we care a lot. We are angered every single time this happens. One in four women survived sexual assault in their lifetimes.
And so now each time he does something like this, we`re more activated to push back and resist against this administration to make sure we don`t have a President who is credibly accused of multiple rapes. Who is on television defending people who covered up child rape.
O`DONNELL: Mimi, the Alex Acosta`s handling of this case, it`s going to be - Jeffrey Epstein`s lawyer says it`s going to be central to his defense. He`s going to use it to try to - the first thing is going to happen apparently in the - on the defense side is a motion to dismiss on the basis of what he calls his global agreement with Alex Acosta.
ROCAH: Yes. And I think that motion is going to fail. I understand why they`re making the argument. But if you - I mean that the Southern District preempted this in their detention letter. They were well aware this was coming.
In their detention letter they said as a little aside, "By the way that Florida agreement, it doesn`t bind us". It says specifically in the language this is specific to the United States Attorney`s Office in the Southern District of Florida and by the way there`s case law in the Second Circuit that says unless an agreement a plea agreement says that it binds all U.S. Attorney`s Offices, it only binds one.
So they have the language of the agreement and the law on their side. They knew this was coming. They did - this is not like some you know rookie thing here. I mean, they expected this to be coming and they are going to lose that argument.
But, of course, they`re going to make it. I mean, this is their job. They are defense attorneys. But it`s going to simply highlight, frankly, how abominable, how horrible, how pathetic that original plea was. And I do not see how Alex Acosta stays in this job.
He`s not just any cabinet member. He is in the Department of Labor, that oversees human trafficking, sex trafficking, human trafficking. He should not be in this position. He let a sex trafficker go.
And if you read Judge Marra`s opinion in Florida where he found that the prosecutors violated the Victims` Rights Act and not notifying the victims, these e-mails between the prosecutors and the defense attorneys, it was a calculated decision to keep it from the victims.
I cannot tell you as a former prosecutor how shocking that is to me and why that press conference yesterday with the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York and the director of the FBI was frankly such an emotional punch in favor of justice where they said "These victims deserve their day in court and we are giving it to them". And it was a rebuke to what Acosta did.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to leave it there for tonight. Mimi Rocah and Zerlina Maxwell, thank you both for joining us, really appreciated.
And when we come back, the Trump administration was back in court today trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act by declaring it unconstitutional. A team of Democratic state attorneys general were defending the Affordable Care Act. The leader of that team will join us.
And later, former CIA Director, John Brennan will give us his take on the British Ambassador to the United States telling his government the truth about Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: President Trump was represented in court today in his attempt to destroy the Affordable Care Act by the Trump Justice Department. The Justice Department appeared in a federal appeals court hearing in which the Trump Justice Department is attempting to have the entire Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional and struck down by the federal courts.
Defending the Affordable Care Act in court are 21 Democratic attorneys general from 21 states, fighting to preserve the Affordable Care Act. The leader of the defense team is the Attorney General who represents more people than in any other state attorney general, California`s Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Joining us now is Attorney General Becerra. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. What was your feeling about the proceedings today in court and where do you think the case stands at this point?
XAVIER BECERRA, ATTORNEY GENERAL, CALIFORNIA: Hi, Lawrence. Well, like any time you go before an appellate panel you`re going to get tough questions. All sides got tough questions.
I think we could figure out where Texas is. They want the whole law eliminated. We can`t quite yet figure out where the federal government is. The Trump administration, I don`t think even they know what their argument was, because they`ve flip-flopped so many times.
And we`ve made it very clear the law has been found constitutional by the Supreme Court already. The law has been held lawful on many occasions and the law continues to work. So we have millions of Americans today benefit from health care that they got as a result of the Affordable Care Act, that`s our argument, pretty simple.
O`DONNELL: And the Supreme Court in its initial finding of constitutionality relied heavily on the tax component - the tax penalty component of the individual mandate. Republicans then legislated the individual mandate away so that leaves a hole in the law now.
And the question becomes will the supreme courts still consider it constitutional if one of the linchpins of its constitutionality is gone. Is that basically the way this argument will unfold before the Supreme Court if it makes it that far?
BECERRA: Actually Lawrence, I`d use different language, because the Congress in 2017 through a tax code change did not get rid of the individual mandate. What it did was it zeroed out the penalty that must be paid by individuals who don`t get insurance.
So instead of charging you a tax, a personal responsibility charge if you don`t secure insurance, they just zeroed it out. The law would have required you to pay fine essentially for not getting insurance. Republicans say we`re going to zero that out. So they didn`t they didn`t dismiss the - that portion of it. They just zeroed it out. And so that`s still there.
But even if even if by chance you could make - stretch the argument to say that the individual mandate were gone and it`s not, what does that have to do with pre-existing conditions? What does that have to do with young adults who get to stay on their parent`s insurance coverage until they`re 26? What does that have to do with seniors under Medicare - some 60 million of them who get preventative care for free and also prescription drug coverage?
So why would all those things disappear simply because through a tax code change Republicans in 2017 decided to zero out the penalty for not getting insurance.
O`DONNELL: When do you think you get a decision at this Appeals Court stage?
BECERRA: It may take a few months and we`ll find out. They may act sooner. The Court may act sooner. My sense is that everyone agrees that whatever the decision is, we`re probably going up to the next level - to the Supreme Court.
O`DONNELL: AND therefore we will probably have a Supreme Court decision on this case in the middle of the presidential campaign next year?
BECERRA: More than likely.
O`DONNELL: California, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciated.
BECERRA: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, why President Trump`s reaction to the leaked British diplomatic cables calling him incompetence, erratic, unpredictable and insecure, is proving every single point made about Donald Trump in the British diplomatic cables. Former CIA director John Brennan will join us.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is outraged that the British Ambassador to the United States has accurately figured him out and delivered his verdict on Donald Trump to the British Prime Minister and other high-ranking officials in the British government in diplomatic cables and notes that were leaked this weekend to a British newspaper.
Beginning six months into the Trump administration, Ambassador Kim Darroch wrote of the Trump administration, "We don`t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal, less dysfunctional, less unpredictable, less faction driven, less diplomatically clumsy and inept." And of course that has been proven true.
Ambassador Darroch also wrote of President Trump, "For a man who has risen to the highest office on the planet, President Trump radiates insecurity".
And Ambassador Darroch had this advice to anyone in the British government having to deal with the President who radiates insecurity. He said, "You need to start praising him for something he`s done recently. You need, whenever possible, to present them as wins for him."
Donald Trump replied to this story on Twitter by calling the British Ambassador "whacky, stupid" and he called the British Prime Minister foolish. Today Prime Minister Theresa May said she supports the ambassador.
And one of the candidates for Prime Minister said that if he becomes Prime Minister, he will keep the Ambassador at his post in Washington.
Joining our discussion now is former CIA Director John Brennan, now a Senior National Security and Intelligence Analyst for MSNBC and NBC News.
O`DONNELL: And I just have to believe that every Embassy in Washington, every Ambassador in Washington has said - sent to his or her government around the world a very similar assessment of Donald Trump.
JOHN BRENNAN, SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, MSNBC & NBC NEWS: Well, absolutely, and Kim Darroch is one of the most accomplished and experienced British diplomats.
In fact, he was the National Security Advisor before he came to Washington. And he was doing what every Ambassador is supposed to do, whether the British, French or American, which is to report back to their capital, their unvarnished views about what is going on in that country and to give their assessment about the leadership.
And so I think Kim Darroch`s assessment was obviously spot-on and he is well respected within the diplomatic community in Washington. And so those words are not going to come as a surprise to others. I think he is again still one of the most respected diplomats that the United Kingdom has posted abroad.
O`DONNELL: And in six months into the Trump presidency he had a very, very important message that he had to deliver, because this presidency has - it`s a four-year term. It`s a fixed term. It`s not like the United Kingdom. It`s - and they`re going to have to be dealing with him.
And he said to them do not expect any changes. And that was a time when people in the news media, people in the Senate, people in the House, were still hoping that there would be changes and improvements in both president Trump`s behavior and his staff`s behavior.
BRENNAN: Yes. And I think he was honest in terms of saying don`t write you know Donald Trump off. That there`s an unpredictable - there`s a predictable unpredictability about him, but he also was giving recommendations to London about how to flatter Trump if you want to really be able to get your point across.
And so I think Kim Darroch was doing what he had to do. Not just making these rather blunt comments about Trump, but also providing some guidance to the British government about how to deal with somebody who truly is an anomaly as far as U.S. presidents are concerned.
O`DONNELL: It seems someone was telling Kim Jong-un something very similar, because he got into the flattery of Trump business and figured out a way to make that work for him.
BRENNAN: Oh, I think everybody knows that if you say nice things about Mr. Trump or to Mr. Trump, he`s going to like you. He wants to be liked.
And I think Kim had it exactly right when he said, that despite being one of the most powerful individuals in the world, he has this amazing paranoia and insecurity that he looks at everybody and wonders are they helping me or hurting me. And if he feels as though they`re not helping him, he`s going to go after them and again with a vengeance.
Look at those terms he used for Kim Darroch. I mean, that certainly is not being presidential, but that`s not surprising for Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Also the Ambassador`s communication offers a strategy about dealing with the Trump administration as he puts it flood the zone talk to anyone you can who might have an ability to contact Trump and influence Trump, including possibly some of the late night friends and rich guys he gets on the phone with, because you can`t use or expect to use normal White House channels and expect that to work.
BRENNAN: Yes. Kim was giving a very practical advice to the British. If you want to make end roads with Donald Trump, find the different channels that are going to be effective, whether they be late night talk show hosts or influencers or whoever happens to be able to be call Donald Trump, and you know especially late at night and will leave thoughts in his head.
So - again, Kim Darroch, I think, was doing exactly what he was doing. This is what American Ambassadors do around the world. And there are a lot of cables that I`ve seen throughout my career where the cables are really detailed in quite stark terms the failings of and shortcomings of foreign leaders.
O`DONNELL: But psychological profiles of foreign leaders aren`t quite so easy to construct as they are of Donald Trump, since he throws his psychological profile out publicly every day and throws about there on Twitter every day.
I didn`t read anything in what the Ambassador had to say that wasn`t public information in the United States.
BRENNAN: No, that`s right and maybe there was some other cables, obviously, that will include some other types of conversations that Kim Darroch might have had with other people.
But he was giving this broad, general view about how to deal with Mr. Trump and the traits and features of Mr. Trump that the British have to be able to understand and engage with, particularly as they`re involved in sensitive negotiations related to Brexit and follow-on relationships with the United States and Donald Trump`s visits to the London.
So, again, Kim, who I know well and greatly respect and admire, he I think should be holding his head high today.
O`DONNELL: How can it work for a British Ambassador who the President of the United States has said absolutely won`t deal with him from now forward?
BRENNAN: Well, reports are he disinvited him to the state dinner for the Qatari Emir last evening. And so they can basically cut him off, and so then it`s going to be a question for London to decide whether or not having an Ambassador who is persona non grata with this administration is worth keeping in London. And I would think maybe some time this year Kim will go on to greener pastures.
O`DONNELL: But isn`t there a risk for the British in terms of the principle of, if somehow diplomatic cables are leaked, you can lose your job for telling us the truth?
BRENNAN: Oh, absolutely. And I don`t think they`re going to pull him right away, but I think, you know, he has served now for three and a half years. And so, you know, four years would be about the right time.
O`DONNELL: John Brennan, thank you very much.
BRENNAN: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: I really appreciate it. That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
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