LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Joy. Thank you very much.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Thank you. Have a great show.
O`DONNELL: Well, we have some sad news tonight from Hyannis Port from the Kennedy family, and that is the 22-year-old granddaughter of Robert Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy has died.
"The New York Times" is reporting that it is an apparent drug overdose. We will get more for you on the information as it develops tonight. But that is once again another tragic death announcement tonight by the Kennedy family in Hyannis Port. As soon as we can bring you more information on that, we will bring it during this hour.
But we will go on now to the news of the week in the presidential campaign, beginning with a very simple fact. Presidents don`t debate. But presidential candidates have to debate in order to win the presidency, a job where they then will not have to debate.
Most American presidents have been elected without ever debating. Debates do not actually test the skills necessary to be president. And most of the political news media does not seem to realize that. And I will have much more to say about that at the end of this hour. And about how we can improve debates and the work that you actually have to do as a viewer and voter when you are watching the debates.
It shouldn`t be a passive exercise. You should be listening and thinking and ignoring much of what happens in presidential debates, especially the games sometimes played by some of the moderators. And this week, the moderators` game, which was probably urged on them by their bosses, was to trap the candidates into fighting with each other. Trap Democrats into fighting with Democrats.
One candidate refused to do that. Even when specifically invited by the moderator to attack a specific candidate, with one candidate refused to play that game. One candidate rose above the CNN game and never criticized another candidate on that stage.
The candidate who wouldn`t play the game, the candidate who only attacked Donald Trump in the debates, will be our first guest tonight. That candidate went from the debate stage to fighting Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor today, on the last day of work in the Senate before the August recess.
In the week since Joe Scarborough started Mitch McConnell "Moscow Mitch", that label has stuck and is now being used by Democrats in Kentucky in a way that has Mitch McConnell worried about his re-election campaign in Kentucky. Senator McConnell got stuck with the label Moscow Mitch when he chose to repeatedly block legislation designed to strengthen our election system against another attack by the Russian government.
Mitch McConnell says the legislation is partisan, and that`s why he blocked it. But that is not true. One of the bills Mitch McConnell blocked was written by a Democrat and a Republican. It has bipartisan support.
The Democrat who wrote that bill along with Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford knows how and when to work in a bipartisan way in the United States Senate. But this week on the presidential debate stage, that senator was the most partisan Democrat in the debates because that senator refused to criticize any Democrats and only attacked Donald Trump.
And here is that senator, on the Senate floor today going after Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are about to adjourn this day without passing election security legislation. We have bipartisan election security legislation. We`ve had that for years. And yet it has been stopped every step of the way.
Last week, my bill was offered by senator Schumer on the floor. It could have gone to the president`s desk that day. Instead, Leader McConnell objected. During his objection he said that election legislation must be drafted with great care and on a bipartisan basis.
We did that. Senator Warner is here. He worked on it. We did that with Senator Lankford, but we were blocked at the rules committee. We were blocked. That`s a documented fact.
The markup had been scheduled. It was ready to go. Senator Blunt had been willing to mold a markup on the bill. And it was stopped.
I am going to tell that story every day until we advance this. I have an opportunity to do that. And I`m going to do it because people need to know what`s going on.
This should not be -- this should not be about partisanship or what benefits what party. You think that`s what the founders were thinking when they decided to declare independence from a foreign country? They were thinking of our country as one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And here is a sample of Amy Klobuchar on the presidential debate stage trying to advance her candidacy without ever attacking another Democrat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KLOBUCHAR: I have bold ideas but they are grounded in reality. And, yes, I will make some simple promises. I can win this. I`m from the Midwest and I have run every race, every place, every time, and I will govern with integrity -- the integrity worthy of the extraordinary people of this nation.
So this is what I think we need to get done. We need the public option. That`s what Barack Obama wanted and it would bring health care costs down for everyone.
People can`t wait. I`ve got my friend Nicole out there whose son was actually died trying to ration his insulin as a restaurant manager and he died because he didn`t have enough money to pay for it.
MODERATOR: Senator --
KLOBUCHAR: Bernie and I worked on pharmaceutical issues together.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Senator.
KLOBUCHAR: What`s missing is the right person in the White House.
Donald Trump wants to use the people as political pawns.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: I was just in Flint. And they are still drinking bottled water in that town. And that is outrageous. But I don`t think anyone can justify what this president is doing.
Little kids literally woke up this weekend turned on the TV and saw their president calling their city the town of Baltimore, nothing more than a home for rats. And I can tell you as your president, that will stop.
When he was just with Vladimir Putin at the G-20, when he was asked about invading our democracy, he made a joke.
We need someone that has people`s back. We also need someone that can win. And I have won in these red districts. I win in the Midwest. I can win in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, and Iowa. And, last, yes, I will govern with integrity.
We have a president where people turn off their TV when they see him. Not me. I will make you proud as your president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And then there was this moment when Amy Klobuchar was specifically invited to attack her competitors for the Democratic presidential nomination. And she would not do it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBATE MODERATOR: You have said when asked about your primary opponents, quote a lot of people are making promises and I`m not making promises just to get elected. Who on the stage is making promises just to get elected?
KLOBUCHAR: Everyone wants to get elected but my point is this. I think when we have a guy in the White House that has told over 10,000 lies that we better be very straightforward with the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She`s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and candidate for president.
Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And I just want to switch gears for a moment on this breaking news that we`re getting from Hyannis Port. You worked with Ted Kennedy in the Senate and now one of his nieces reportedly died today, the news released by the family in Hyannis Port, possibly from drug overdose. I wanted your reaction to that.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, you just think of the tragedy that has hit this family. And it`s just one thing after another. Obviously, we think of them today.
But this problem of drug overdoses is happening all over this country right now. And certainly we know it here with Prince in Minnesota, but it`s not just famous people. It`s everyday people.
I talked about little Casey Jo, a champion swimmer at the end of the debate, who went into the emergency room and got hooked. And her last words to her mom was: mama, it`s not my fault, and she later died.
This is happening because we have a lot of politicians talking about it. But just as I said in the debate, to be straightforward, these companies if it was opioids I don`t know what happened in this tragic case, but if it was opioids, we know what happened here.
The market was flooded by pharma companies. People turned to opioids and they turned illegal drugs and they started taking the drugs and they`re dying. And those pharma companies had better be held responsible.
It`s one of the reasons I came out with a full plan for mental health and addiction, given my own family history with my dad who had drunk driving convictions and finally got treatment. In his words he was pursued by grace and it changed his whole life. I think everyone has that same right.
So, whenever I hear these stories -- and again, we don`t know exactly what happened -- whether they are in famous families or not, it makes me think about that we could be doing a better job as a country getting people into treatment, removing the stigma and then making sure that the people this that are responsible for this which has been the drug companies are paying for it.
O`DONNELL: Senator, I want to talk about the debate and make sure we reserve enough time to talk about what you were trying to achieve on the Senate floor today.
To the debate, why didn`t you do it? CNN wanted you to attack your competitors on that stage. They wanted you to -- if you felt like it, to reach over and attack competitors on the other stages that you weren`t even on. But they really, really wanted you to do that.
Why didn`t you do it?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, because I don`t think this is a sporting event. I think there is more that unites our party than divides us. I do think we will have, as you have seen, legitimate discussions. I disagree with some of my colleagues and made that clear and continue to have disagreements on policy and make that clear, because I want to make the case I`m the best candidate.
But we`ve got to use these debates, Lawrence, as a moment to take it to Donald Trump because there are not just base Democrats watching those debates. There is independent. There`s moderate Republican. So, there is the general election issue.
But there`s also the fact that I still believe that people want to hear from us about what differentiates us, what`s the contrast, what`s our own optimistic economic agenda. And if you spend the whole time just cutting down your opponent, just to get that viral moment, then what have we done? We don`t win and we don`t do better for this country.
And so, it`s just a fundamental belief of mine that maybe I won`t have that viral moment or maybe I will. I had one once in the Kavanaugh hearing just because I did my job. And that`s what I`m not looking for it by going after my opponents by saying mean things. I just don`t think that`s how do you it.
Now, some people think this is a test for how you can take on Donald Trump. As I said at that debate, one of my opponents once in a debate, Republican, said to me you`re nothing but a street fighter from the iron range. And I said thank you.
And you can show your tough enough to take on Donald Trump without doing it against fellow Democrats.
O`DONNELL: Well, is it one way to do it the which you did it in the debate which is you show how you are taking on Donald Trump but actually taking on Donald Trump during the debate?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. Well, that does seem to me to be a good idea. My favorite moment for me was when he called me snow woman after my announcement in the blizzard and I had taken on climate change, and then he made fun of me for doing that in snow.
And so, then, I wrote back to him, I sent out a tweet and said the science is on my side I`m climate change, Donald Trump and I`d love to see how your hair would fair in blizzard.
And so, I just think there are many ways to take this guy on, but you`ve got to show the absurdity of what he has done. And one of those is what we were talking about today on the Senate floor. And that is he gut punched us on the election bill last year.
Senator Lankford and myself and Senator Burr was on the bill, Warner. And, basically, the administration made calls directly, Don McGahn, the White House counsel, and stopped the bill. They called Republicans.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the president said today about Russian interference in the election since this is so relevant to what you were fighting for in the Senate floor today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Robert Mueller said last week that Russia is interfering in U.S. elections right now. Did you raise that with Vladimir Putin yesterday?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don`t really believe this. Do you believe this now? OK.
REPORTER: He said it last week. Did you raise that with President Putin yesterday?
TRUMP: OK, fine, we didn`t talk about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, there is the president of the United States saying in effect, he doesn`t believe that Russian -- Russia interfered with the election or Russia plans to interfere with the election when he is confronted with that by Robert Mueller`s testimony through a reporter he says you don`t really believe this.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, same old thing. Robert Mueller said it under oath that the Russians are doing it as we speak. Trump`s own FBI director Christopher Wray under my questioning and others just last week said the same thing. His own intelligence Director Dan Coates who is now sadly resigning said that they are getting bolder.
So, it is undeniable that this is happening. They`ve done it through hacking and done it through dirty propaganda online. And both of these things we could take steps to decrease the possibility of in happening.
As I said today, this is about our democracy. Hundreds of thousands of people lost lives on battlefields to protect our right to vote in our democracy. Four little girls lost life in a church in Birmingham at the height of the civil rights movement because we stood up for our democracy.
So, for this guy to make jokes about it all the time it`s unpatriotic and it`s un-American.
And this can`t wait for a new president, Lawrence. There are 11 states that don`t have backup paper ballots. Anything we can do to get the backup paper ballots. Some of them are partial, some don`t have it at all, because otherwise, we could have a presidential election and not know the outcome.
And the second thing is making the social media companies tell us where the ads are coming from and who is paying for them so that we can have a fair election. Four billion, three to four billion is going to be spent. Your network when you run ads, you`ve got to say who is paying for those ads and what they are. Not true of Facebook or Google or Twitter or any of those companies. And their volunteer measures don`t measure up to what you have to do on network TV or radio.
O`DONNELL: Senator, I know we are not hearing the name Moscow Mitch on the Senate floor. Senate rules and customs don`t allow that and senators don`t want to talk that way about each other no matter how bad it gets. But the name does seem to be sticking, and it does seem to be sticking in politics in Kentucky, to the point where there are now reports indicating that maybe Mitch McConnell will want to negotiate something with Amy Klobuchar when he gets back from the August recess.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, right now, Senator Lankford and I -- and that actually was our bill that we did last year hasn`t been reintroduced because we continue to negotiate it. The other -- the bills that were blocked was a bill I was leading with Senator Warner and others. And then Senator Wyden and I have a bill.
But what this bill does it requires backup paper ballots if you take out federal money for election that would move the states to know that`s what they have to do. And it has audit provisions. Senator Lankford and I talked today. We`re continuing to negotiate. My hope is that over the august break as long as your viewers keep calling and demanding this and using whatever names they want, that maybe we can actually get this done.
O`DONNELL: Senator, I`m kind of speechless about what I saw happen in the Senate Judiciary Committee today because I`ve never seen anything like it. I know you`ve never seen anything like it.
It was a markup of a bill in that process in which the committee votes on a bill. Whenever that happens, both sides get to speak about it at minimum speak about it before there is a vote. Usually they get to amend it or offer amendments before there is a vote. Lindsey Graham just convened the committee and basically said let`s vote. Shocked Pat Leahy who had 40 years of service in the Senate, couldn`t believe what he was saying.
What was your experience of what happened on your committee today?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, I was there for the entire hearing. And it was one of the saddest things I`d ever seen. Senator Graham as we pointed out worked with us on that initial immigration bill when President Bush was in, valiantly we tried to get that done. He then supported the bill in 2013 comprehensive reform.
And now, he has just gone when it comes to this issue the full Trump because what`s happened here is we would like to work with him on the issue of seeking asylum in those home countries of the Northern Triangle. But instead, he has put a bill forward we have some issues with and instead of just working with us, he rammed it through without amendment.
I had some great amendments on temporary status people that are here, domestic violence victims, and we weren`t able to offer any amendments. He -- I think he broke four rules just to get it through the committee on a partisan vote. And the despite how vitriolic the immigration is right now, there are people of goodwill that worked together on this in the Senate in the past and want to in the future.
And that`s why this was such a sad moment. The bill I suppose is now headed to the floor.
O`DONNELL: Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, thank you. Thank you, Lawrence. It`s great to be on.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we`re going to have more on tonight`s breaking news from the Kennedy family in Hyannis Port, another tragic death in the Kennedy family, the 22-year-old granddaughter of Robert Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy died today. We will have more on that.
And more Democrats now declaring they support impeachment, including one of the most senior Democrats in the House, a chairman of a very important committee now supporting impeachment.
He will join us.
O`DONNELL: Back to breaking news tonight. Saoirse Kennedy Hill, a granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy died this afternoon after suffering an apparent overdose at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, according to two people close to the family who spoke to "The New York Times."
Saoirse Kennedy Hill was the daughter of Courtney Kennedy Hill and granddaughter of Ethel Kennedy. She was 22 years old.
The family released a statement today including this quote from Ethel Kennedy, saying, the world is a little less beautiful today.
We are joined now by Anne Thompson of NBC News joining us by phone from Hyannis Port.
Anne, what do we know at this point?
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS (via telephone): Lawrence, we know that this afternoon, emergency responders were called to Robert Kennedy -- the home on the Kennedy compound that belonged to the former and late Senator Robert Kennedy. And they were responding to an apparent overdose.
We know tonight that the person who they treated was 22-year-old Saoirse Kennedy Hill. What`s interesting about Saoirse is that she has spoken about her struggles with mental illness when she was at Deerfield Academy. And she was just 16. She wrote about the struggles, saying she fought with depression and suffered what we she called bouts of deep sadness that felt like a heavy boulder on her chest.
And she also revealed in the newspaper article for the student newspaper Deerfield Academy that she had once tried to commit suicide after being sexually assaulted. She said she did the worst thing a victim could do and pretended that it hadn`t happened. And it all -- this all became too much and I attempted to take my own life.
But in this article, she felt she had overcome those issues. She said we are all either struggling or know someone who is battles an illness, so let`s come together to make our community inclusive and comfortable. But as far as beyond the fact that she died in afternoon and that this is a family that is absolutely heartbroken at her passing, the specific circumstances of her death have not been made public at this time.
O`DONNELL: And, Anne, this family has suffered so greatly through each generation. The earlier generation of cousins has gone through similar kinds of suffering. So this is a family that has tragically found itself in this situation before.
THOMPSON: Well, just think -- this is the second -- Ethel Kennedy lost her son David to a drug overdose in the 1980s. We don`t know again if this is an overdose. It would be -- this would be her grandchild that she lost to the same sort of illness.
Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman has been public about his struggles with mental health, with mental illness. And so, this is a big, large family that deals with a lot of the same problems that many American families deal with on a constant basis. But in this case, I mean this is now, you know, another Kennedy, another Kennedy who has gone at an age that seems far too young.
O`DONNELL: Anne Thompson, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
THOMPSON: You`re welcome, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: Most members of the political news media are sports fans and most of them think politics is sport, and most of them cover it as a sport, a heavyweight championship fight. So candidates know they will be scored by TV pundits on punches thrown. So punches are thrown.
But it doesn`t have to be this way. It is possible to campaign without attacking your competitors. Amy Klobuchar showed that in her debate performance. It is possible to campaign for office without ever mentioning your opponents.
I worked for United States Senator who was repeatedly reelected in the State of New York with two-thirds of the vote, simply by talking about what he had done as a Senator and what he would continue to do and never mentioning his opponents.
Presidential races are different, of course they are, and the competition is much more intense than the Senate race, of course and it can feel much more personal. One of the ways of competing on a presidential debate stage is simply making the very best case for yourself without trying to tear someone else down at the same time. The sports model for that could be home run derby.
What if each Democrat on the stage treated the competition like home run derby instead of a boxing match, and when each one of them got up to bat, they tried to do their very best. Make their best case for themselves, just hit good solid clean home runs.
Here are the competitors in this year`s home run derby. They are all fierce competitors. They were each trying to beat the other but only by doing their own personal best. Politicians could learn a lot from them.
Joining us now is Waleed Shahid. He is a Spokesperson for Justice Democrats and former senior aide to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He is a former delegate for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential campaign and he is currently not affiliated with a 2020 presidential campaign.
Also with us Ron Klain, he was a senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama. He`s also was an advisor - he is now an Advisor to Joe Biden`s 2020 presidential campaign.
And Ron, I was just learning that in my teleprompter, so if it`s present tense now that you are formally advising the Biden campaign.
RON KLAIN, ADVISOR TO JOE BIDEN`S 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I am, yes absolutely.
O`DONNELL: So give us give us your reaction to what you saw on that debate stage last night.
KLAIN: Look, I think you saw on the one hand the candidates did make a powerful case against Donald Trump. And I thought you know Vice President Biden took it to Trump in his opening statement. Senator Gillibrand had her famous line about Cloroxing Oval Office. Governor Inslee called him a white nationalist.
If you certainly watched that debate, you saw that candidates taking to Donald Trump. But you also saw seven candidates individually attack the Vice-President. And so part of that debate was him dealing with those attacks, responding to those attacks. Making points about his opponents records. That is part of the debate process and I think you saw both those things happening last night.
O`DONNELL: And Waleed, what did you see up there?
WALEED SHAHID, SPOKESPERSON JUSTICE DEMOCRATS: Well I saw candidates making a case for a different--
O`DONNELL: By the way, feel free. We haven`t done a show since Monday. Feel free to reach back into Tuesday night, the first debate, where Bernie sanders was up.
SHAHID: Yes. Also in that debate I thought we saw a really substantive discussion about the role of government and the Democratic Party. The role of government in America. I mean, it`s a tectonic shift from where the Democratic Party was in the 1990s with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders trying to make government work again.
I mean, it`s not that long ago that Bill Clinton said the era of big government is over. And now era of big government is back in the Democratic Party. They`re both kind of rekindling the spirit of the New Deal, the Great Society.
I think in terms of your baseball metaphor, I mean, they have to be able to draw contrast with other candidates, so I think that`s a lot of what they`re doing. There`s been a lot of talk today about how Obama - President Obama was attacked last night over immigration, which I think is a little over saying it.
I mean, I think what actually happened is a reflection on mistakes Democrats made in the first term of the President regarding immigration and deportation. I mean, the first person who will tell you they disagreed with Obama`s immigration policy is Obama himself, because he created new policies to actually provide relief to Dreamers.
So I think it`s going a little too sensitive about the robust discussion that`s happening. Tension can produce growth. 2008, I mean, people forget that that got pretty heated as well.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And I agree with Waleed on that. Ron, I think, this word attack gets used too much. What I`m watching is a variation on the kind of debate you see unfold within the Democratic Party for decades on the Senate floor, for example, where we`ve both worked.
On any given issue and there`s a range of opinion. Usually the party is unified in the direction like we want to provide more access to health care for more people and then you get into this debate, argument within the Committees and then on the Senate floor about what are the right methods for doing that.
And as you go through that debate, certain things get thrown out in order to clear a vote hurdle. Like with Obamacare, when they just dropped the public option, because they knew they couldn`t get it through the House of Representatives. So for me there`s something very familiar about all of this that I don`t think of as attack.
KLAIN: Yes. Look, I think, the discussion that went on in health care, both nights, I think was a robust and interesting discussion. And to go to back to Waleed`s point. I think one interesting thing is, if you take kind of what the left side of that debate was and the more moderate side of that debate.
Both positions - the whole range of positions is significantly more progressive than where we were just - eight - seven or eight years ago as a party with the kind of the public option now being a starting point for people like Vice President Biden and Senator Bennet and others. And obviously, Senator Warren, Senator Sanders for Medicare for All, Senator Harris for some hybrid plan.
But I think what you are saying is kind of like what you said, Lawrence, a discussion about the policy stuff. I think that`s very, very healthy. I think when it stays away from people attacking each other`s motives, when it stays away from people attacking each other`s - Senator Gillibrand went after an Op-Ed Vice President Biden wrote 38 years ago, I don`t think that`s as healthy, OK. I don`t think that`s what the Democrats want to see.
But I think having a robust debate among these candidates about the different ways to meet the shared Democratic goal of expanding healthcare in our country, I think, that`s a that`s a healthy conversation, one we have to have.
O`DONNELL: The - when I when I look back at the Reagan presidency and how Ronald Reagan in his road to the presidency, Democrat, Republicans never attacked him for having been a Democrat - a Democrat a couple of decades earlier, because they care about where you are today and that`s part of the key to the Trump candidacy.
All they had to do was here that he was going to accept Mitch McConnell`s Supreme Court justices during the campaign and they didn`t care what his previous position on abortion was or any previous position he ever had. Is there a lesson in that present tense campaigning of Republicans - for Democrats?
SHAHID: I don`t know. I think like as a Millennial, I like look at the presidential stage and I see candidates who`ve made decisions that really impacted my life from voting for the war in Iraq or voting for deregulating Wall Street.
Or overseeing the - most carbon emissions that we`ve seen in this country have come in the last 30 years. And so I think a lot of the anger is being driven by young people who`ve seen politicians not really solve systemic crises in our country, and that`s why I think you`re seeing people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders really propose solutions that solve these crises and actually are the goal themselves rather than just getting to the goal.
O`DONNELL: Why aren`t you supporting Bernie Sanders this time?
SHAHID: Well, I think, right now we`ve had a lot of supporters that are split between candidates. We`ll follow what our supporters want, so we have a lot of supporters who support Bernie.
O`DONNELL: Also your organization, you`re staying out of it because your organization hasn`t chosen him candidate.
O`DONNELL: Yes. OK. I got it. Ron, what about that the way in which Republicans seem to be very willing to forgive and forget anything you`ve done before today, because what they care about as voters and as candidates is what are you going to do tomorrow.
KLAIN: Well look I do think the centerpiece of these conversations should be about what these Democrats are proposing to do tomorrow. What`s realistic, what can get done, what can actually make people`s lives better.
I think Vice President Biden was talking about that. Last time we talked about his health care plan and how he would expand coverage. So I think that`s a positive direction. Hopefully, we`ll see more of that in the upcoming debates.
O`DONNELL: OK. Ron, Joe Biden aside, in the two nights, just give me just give me one name on who you think did the best on each of those two nights, without including Joe Biden.
KLAIN: Its hard question Lawrence. I actually think Andrew Yang was kind of like a surprise breakout star. I thought he did a really good job of raising issues the other candidates aren`t really talking about.
O`DONNELL: All right. We`re going to leave it there. Waleed Shahid, Ron Klain, thank you both for joining us.
When we come back the Russians have decided who they do not want to be the Democratic presidential nominee or at least one of the people they don`t want to be the Democratic presidential nominee. I`m sure there`s lot of them that they are afraid of. We will get to that.
And more Democrats in the House are coming out in favor of impeachment, including the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House Eliot Engel. Chairman Engel will join us.
O`DONNELL: Since Robert Mueller`s testimony to the House, 24 Democrats in the House have announced they back impeachment. And today the number of House Democrats supporting impeachment rose to just one vote shy of the of a majority of the Democratic caucus itself.
According to the NBC News count 117 Democrats and one independent, a former Republican, have declared support for impeachment. Well more than halfway to the 218 votes it would be necessary to vote for impeachment in the House of Representatives.
Joining us now is the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel. Mr. Chairman thank you very much for joining us tonight.
REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY): Thank you, it`s a pleasure to be here.
O`DONNELL: So have now you - you represent New York City. You have now come out in favor of impeachment. Your fellow Chairman Jerry Nadler represents another part of New York City. He will be in charge of impeachment if it happens. What brought you to this decision?
ENGEL: Well, first of all we certainly watched the hearings. Two of our Committees, of course, had Mr. Mueller there, and we`ve had the opportunity to read Mueller`s report and conclusion. And I`ve come to the conclusion that this needs an impeachment inquiry.
I mean, it`s not something I relish. It`s very, very difficult, but if we do nothing, then we encourage this kind of behavior not only now but for all future Presidents as well. So Mueller also said that he could not impeach the President--
O`DONNELL: Indict the President.
ENGEL: Indict the President, sorry. He could not indict the President, because as the sitting President cannot be indicted. He said it would be possible after he would leave office. So it falls to us. It falls to the house.
We`re duly elected. I was sworn to uphold the Constitution. And I don`t take it very lightly. I fact, I agonized over it, which is why I didn`t do it weeks or months ago.
O`DONNELL: Did the Clinton impeachment process that you were there in the House for that. Is that part of what has slowed you down in - or made use as careful as you`ve been in reaching this decision I should say.
ENGEL: I think it played a role. I wouldn`t say it played a major role. But last time it really just brought the country into a really difficult position. But, Lawrence, what choice do we really have? We have an obligation and we have to fulfill that obligation. I think to do anything less would be really not doing our duties.
We would hold it - we know the Senate has a majority and so the chance of getting a conviction - you can get an impeachment, but not a conviction is nil. But that doesn`t matter. Because I think the Constitution works and we really have to do our job.
I mean, we are talking about Russian interference in the United States election. And we are talking about collusion with the Trump campaign. I mean, what can be more important than a democracy hanging in the balance.
The President takes it quite cavalierly. He thinks it`s not a big deal. But nothing is a big deal to him. This is our very, very democracy hanging in the balance. And I don`t want to get melodramatic.
But the fact of the matter is we have a responsibility and I think you`re going to see the House take that responsibility.
O`DONNELL: We saw the President today - a video was showed earlier in the hour - asked by a reporter about Robert Mueller saying that the Russians attacked the election that they will continue to try to attack the election and did you mention that to Vladimir Putin?
And the President said to the reporter, "You don`t believe that, do you?" In other words there`s the President saying publicly, he doesn`t believe now. He`s saying now. I don`t believe that the Russians attacked our election.
ENGEL: Well, I think he have to be naive or I don`t know what to, to not believe it. It`s there. And then there are other things. The Speaker has designated six of us, who are Chairs, to continue investigations.
And we still don`t know what happened when Putin met Trump in Helsinki that time. Trump seems to have this this this wonderful feeling towards the dictators and despots. I don`t know what the attraction is. But people want to know what happened. I want to know what happened.
O`DONNELL: And that`s part of your investigation.
O`DONNELL: Chairman Engel, thank you very much for joining tonight. We really appreciate it.
ENGEL: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Thanks for coming here. Appreciate it.
And when we come back, we will discuss how to improve presidential campaign debates. They can`t get much worse. Improving them is not that difficult. That`ll be tonight`s LAST WORD.
O`DONNELL: In all of the TV analysis of last night`s debate, including my own analysis, I have yet to hear one word about which candidate was revealed to be the best possible future President of the United States, that`s not the way we in the media usually analyze debates.
We cover them like sporting events - winners, losers, home runs, strikeouts, zingers, knockout punches, the line of the night. We try to guess which candidates impress the TV audience the most and we are always guessing about that, although we rarely label our statements as the pure guesses that they are.
We evaluate debating skills and that`s the problem with debates - coverage of debates. Presidents don`t debate. Presidents don`t have to think on their feet. Presidents never have to make a decision alone without advisors who have much more experience on every subject than the President does.
And so the debates do not test the skills necessary to do the job of President well. It`s a job that you never get to see the President do, because the real work of the presidency is done behind the closed door of the Oval Office or the closed door of the cabinet room or the Situation Room or on Air Force One.
The real work of the presidency is making decisions after being sufficiently briefed on the subject by people who have been working on that subject for their entire careers and know the subject way better than the President ever will. The President doesn`t have to sit there on his own trying to think of every relevant fact about a particular policy in 30 seconds, never. That`s not the job.
I personally have seen only one President doing the job of the presidency, and that`s because when Bill Clinton was President, I was the Chief of Staff of the Senate Finance Committee and most of the President`s agenda had to come through my Committee.
And so the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Daniel Patrick Moynihan and I were repeatedly in meetings with the President in the Oval Office with the door closed and in the Cabinet Room with the door closed.
And in those rooms in every meeting I was in the President of the United States had less to say than anyone else in the room. And in the meetings I was in, the President of the United States knew less about the subject than anyone else in the room. And Bill Clinton was as steeped in policy detail as any president we`ve ever had.
President Clinton was better educated than most of the people in the room. He was probably smarter than most of the people in the room, but he was not more informed than most of the people in the room, because he was the President.
The president has jurisdiction over all of the policy territory of the federal government, all of it, from domestic policy to foreign policy and experts in the room usually are only very high informed about their - that one subject, taxation or national defense.
In most presidential meetings, the President does not have to make a decision. He simply listens to what the policy experts have to say and what the congressional players have to say about how many votes, the different policy approaches can get in the Senate and the House.
And the President usually decides later, sometimes much later, after conferring with his own advisors about which policy approach to support. I actually saw President Clinton make governing decisions a few times, right there in the meeting, but that was very rare. And he took his time when he did that, when he made those decisions sitting in the room with us. And there was no 60-second time limit on his decision making.
And so if we want debates to more realistically show what a candidate might be like as President, there should be ten people on the stage, but only two candidates. And each candidate should have five advisers on different policy arenas sitting right behind them, exactly the way all cabinet members do when they testify to Congress.
And those advisers should be able to pass notes to the candidate, the way they pass notes to cabinet members when they are testifying. And we should give the candidates the questions in advance so that we can get their best, most thoughtful answers, answers that they arrive at with the help of their advisers exactly the way they would, responsibly do their job as President of the United States.
Now, I know how heretical that sounds. But a few elections ago, in a private conversation with a member of the Presidential Debate Commission, who I knew, I very tentatively brought up what I thought would be the craziest idea he had ever heard, giving the candidates the questions in advance.
And to my surprise and delight, he said he had recently decided that was a good idea, even before I mentioned it to him. And that was because he knows what the job of the presidency actually is.
But it`s not going to happen. We`re going to continue to have TV debates that serve the purposes of TV, especially commercial TV, rather than the interests of voters. And so your job as a voter when you watch the debates is to try to think beyond the sound bite and figure out what, if anything, in the debate actually matters in your choice of candidate.
And don`t be surprised if there is nothing in the debate that helps you make up your hind. Because the debates are not designed for you, the debates are not designed to enlighten us about how can best do the job of the presidency, because the debates have absolutely nothing to do with the job of President of the Untied States.
That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight, the President dismisses the warning from Mueller that Russia is interfering in our elections and so he says, he didn`t raise it while on phone with Putin.
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