RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: One of the things we`ve been talking about for the last couple of weeks on this show is the potential that there might be a -- the opioids` version of what was the multibillion dollar tobacco settlement back in the `90s.
The company that makes OxyContin, Purdue Pharma is trying to pursue that sort of a settlement. Bombshell story tonight in "The New York Times" which says the New York Attorney General subpoena`s to one financial institution alone have turned up wire transfers of more than $1 billion dollars to entities controlled by the Sackler family that owns Purdue Pharma.
There are allegations now that that family may have essentially raided Purdue Pharma to take all the money out of that company, to leave no money for victims -- to leave less money for victims as they approach these settlement talks.
Those are red-hot allegations. We`ve been talking about that all week that is significantly advanced by this reporting in "The New York Times," and I expect that will lead to more reporting and more consequences over the weekend. So, watch out for that. But now it`s time for the "Last Word" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And I have right here the Justice Department filing. It`s the -- let`s see -- there it is. Justice Department filing tonight -- it`s the breaking news of the night. Them saying, the Justice Department saying that House chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, has no right to see grand jury material related to the Mueller investigation. And you know who has something to say about that?
O`DONNELL: Jerry Nadler.
MADDOW: You have Nadler?
O`DONNELL: You know where he is right now? He`s over here.
MADDOW: That was an excellent reveal.
O`DONNELL: Come by and say hi on your way out the door.
MADDOW: I will. OK, bye.
O`DONNELL: Thank you Rachel. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler is here to talk about the breaking news of the night with the Trump Justice Department trying to block his subpoena for grand jury material from the Mueller investigation.
Chairman Nadler will be our first guest tonight with his reaction to that new legal filing by the Justice Department. Also tonight, Donald Trump lost a big round in court today on the emoluments case against him, which has now cleared legal hurdles to move forward.
And we`ll take a look at last night`s debate and show you why you can ignore almost everything in the policy details that the candidates argued about last night. And Cal Perry will join us with a new must-see investigation into the potential dangers of the practice of flaring natural gas in Texas.
We begin tonight with the breaking news. The Trump Justice Department headed by the Trump attorney general, William Barr, told a federal court in Washington tonight that the House Judiciary Committee should be denied any access to grand jury material from the Mueller investigation because impeachment is not a judicial proceeding according to the Justice Department. The Justice Department filing in court notes that grand jury material can be released in connection with a judicial proceeding.
The Justice Department then insists, "impeachment proceedings in Congress including hypothetical removal proceedings in the Senate are not judicial proceedings under the plain and ordinary meaning of that term. Judicial proceedings are legal proceedings governed by law that take place in a judicial form before a judge or magistrate.
Proceedings that occur outside the judicial setting are not judicial proceedings even if they are called a trial and include some of the procedures familiar from a courtroom such as sworn testimony or lawyer-led questioning of witnesses.
The committee for its part offers no explanation for how Rule 6(c)`s reference to judicial proceedings authorizes access to grand jury materials for congressional proceedings administered by members of Congress rather than the legal proceedings overseen by judges."
Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee on a party line vote voted for a resolution for investigative procedures offered by Chairman Gerald Nadler. That resolution describes in detail the investigative procedures the committee will use in what it calls "the committee`s investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Donald J. Trump."
Leading our discussion tonight, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler. He represents New York`s 10th congressional district. Chairman Nadler, the Justice Department seems to be making two cases here.
First of all, that this is not a judicial proceeding in your committee, therefore, you do have a right to this. Second, even if it was a judicial proceeding interpreted that way, you still don`t have a right to it, even if it went to trial, even if it went to a senate trial, you don`t have a right to any of this material.
They`re, first of all, saying though that you aren`t even having an impeachment investigation. There isn`t -- they insist -- there is no impeachment investigation in the House.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, let me deal with that in reverse order. We`ve been very clear for the last several months in court filings, in public statements, and in proceedings in the committee that we are, in fact, conducting an investigation, preparing to decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the House.
Now, you can call that an impeachment investigation, you can call that impeachment inquiry, those terms have no legal meaning, but that`s exactly what we`re doing. We`re involved in an investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the House. So, we will determine that at the conclusion of this investigation.
Now, I know the Republicans and here, the Justice Department, is simply acting as an arm of the Republican Party. They have argued that this cannot be a really impeachment investigation because the House didn`t vote (inaudible) to the committee to do it.
Most impeachments done since the Re-organization Act of 1946 have begun in the -- judiciary committee have not had House authorizations at all. The Nixon impeachment had a House of authorization six months after the investigation started in the judiciary committee. And that was done as was the Clinton House authorization in order to give committee the right to do certain kinds of subpoenas and depositions.
The House rules have changed. We have that authority without specific resolution of the House. So, there`s no question that we are doing -- that we are in an official -- we`re doing an investigation toward determining whether to recommend articles of impeachment (inaudible).
The second argument they make is that that doesn`t qualify as a judicial proceeding and therefore, we`re not entitled to grand jury information. I`ll just have to say, this is another instance of the Trump administration trying to cover up and hide from Congress and from the American people, in this case from Congress because the American people wouldn`t see grand jury information.
All kinds of information they`re opposing. The president said he would oppose all -- he would defy all subpoenas, which they have done. That by the way was Article 3 of the Nixon impeachment, to find subpoenas. The law says that upon request by the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the department -- the IRS shall give tax returns for any individual. They have declined to do so -- they have refused to do so.
They have said they haven`t shown adequate purpose. That`s none of their business. And so they`re just defying all the law in order to hide everything from Congress and from the American people.
Now, their excuse here that this is not a judicial proceeding, there is judicial precedent for calling -- for considering an impeachment proceeding either judicial proceeding or preparatory judicial proceeding, but I`ll let the details go to the legal -- to the reply brief that will be filed this coming week.
O`DONNELL: Well, Judge Sirica in the Nixon case ordered grand jury materials handed over to your committee. That`s one of the precedents you`re relying on. They say that precedent isn`t relevant. I want to go to something else they used in here.
They use what in courtroom terms would be called extrajudicial comment, meaning they use statements that Speaker Pelosi has made when talking to reporters or trying to explain the situation to the American public. And they use that in these filings to say -- to try to say that there isn`t an official proceeding going on.
They quote the speaker on this one. They say "the Speaker of the House has been emphatic that the investigation is not a true impeachment proceeding on the same day the House adopted the resolution that the committee claims authorized this suit, the Speaker told a reporter the House Democratic caucus was not even close to an impeachment inquiry." That was back in June.
NADLER: Well, first of all, the House Democratic caucus doesn`t do an impeachment inquiry.
NADLER: But second of all, the speaker has been very supportive of every step that we have taken in initiating this impeachment investigation. Every court filing, every statement, every official statement in the committee was okayed by her at the time.
The House counsel who prepares, who makes all the legal filings on behalf of the Judiciary Committee reports to the Speaker not to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. So she has been fully supportive of every statement we have made and of the initiation and continuation of the steps that we`re taking for the investigation.
Even the procedures that we -- that the committee voted, which included in the preamble whereas clause as a history of how this investigation started, and of the resolution passed by the House back in June I think it was, authorizing subpoenas and other things and the accompanying report of which says, this is among other things, in order to determine whether to recommend the articles of impeachment to the House. All of that was done with the Speaker`s approval and direct involvement.
O`DONNELL: The Justice Department filing says that the committee does not know whether it`s going to have articles of impeachment or vote on articles of impeachment of the president. The committee might -- and it uses public comments to support this thing. The committee might end up with just a censure or the committee might not take action.
NADLER: Well, that`s -- but that`s saying -- that`s why --
O`DONNELL: Therefore, you don`t deserve any of this material.
NADLER: Well, that`s like saying that you shouldn`t show evidence to the jury because the jury hasn`t made up its mind at the beginning of the trial. Of course, we haven`t determined yet whether to recommend articles of impeachment.
That`s why we`re having this investigation to determine whether the evidence is sufficient and important enough to justify the rather extraordinary step of voting articles of impeachment. One can have one`s personal opinions as to the quality of that evidence, but you don`t announce the conclusion at the beginning of the trial, at the beginning of the proceeding.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Judge Sirica ordered the grand jury material handed over to the committee before the judiciary committee decided that it was going to vote on articles of impeachment. And also the committee didn`t necessarily know whether the vote on articles of impeachment would pass.
NADLER: Well, of course not. A proper investigation, a proper proceeding to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment, whether by the judiciary committee in 1973 and `74 with respect to Nixon or now, you don`t start off with a conclusion. You may have personal opinions, but you don`t start of with an official conclusion. You examine the evidence and you make a conclusion.
Now, I think personally the evidence is very strong in a dozen different impeachable offenses, but that`s my personal opinion at the moment. We are going to have a very aggressive series of hearings starting next Tuesday to bring out the witnesses and we`re going to go well beyond the parameters of the Mueller report.
It`s not just the question of collusion with the Russians in the election and the question of obstruction of justice, which I think is very clearly indicated in the Mueller report. But the question of self-dealing and self- enrichment that American taxpayer`s money is going directly into the pocket of the president,
That apparently Saudi money is going directly into the pockets of the president because all of this in direct violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution because of the very corrupt actions where you direct the Air Force to use a Trump hotel.
Or foreign governments seeking to influence the United States government, have their delegations stay at Trump hotels, which he hasn`t divested himself of an interest in, and which means money directly into his pocket.
We have to take a look at his failure to defend. I mean there`s ample evidence. There is plenty of evidence that Mueller testified to this, Senator Coates, the former head of the -- the director of National Intelligence, that we`re under attack now by the Russians in terms of the integrity of our election, that we`re expecting that they will try to intervene and others in our election next year.
And has the president done anything to carry out his oath to protect and defend the Constitution, to see that the laws against election interference are faithfully executed? I think not. That`s another grounds for impeachment. The fact that he has in fact defied all congressional subpoenas is an obstruction of the work of Congress.
The central purpose of impeachment is not to punish crimes. The central purpose of impeachment as described by the framers, the federalist papers et cetera, is to prevent the aggrandizement of power by the president to protect liberty, to protect the separation of powers, to prevent the president from assuming power over the Congress and over the judicial branch.
And his complete subversion of this by refusing all information to Congress and even this brief could be read as part of that, that was Article 3 in the Nixon impeachment, and Nixon didn`t go so far as to say he would oppose all subpoenas as this president has said he would do and has done.
So I think that there is some very, very serious reasons. And some people say, by the way, why should we impeach the president, the Senate would never convict anyway. I think it`s very important that this kind of conduct, if you can prove it, be called out.
That the constitution must be vindicated, and that a president -- and the next president and the one after him or her has to know you can`t do this sort of thing. You have to protect the institutions of government so that powers are not centralized so you don`t evolve graduating to a dictatorship.
O`DONNELL: Is Stormy Daniels going to be a witness in front of your committee?
NADLER: I don`t know if she will be, but the misuse or the payments to the women, to Stormy Daniels and -- I forget the name of the other woman, to prevent that information from coming out in order not to influence -- in order to influence the election is certainly something we`re going to look at.
O`DONNELL: Chairman Nadler, really appreciate you coming in.
NADLER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much.
When we come back, President Trump`s big defeat in court today. The executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is suing Donald Trump for violating the emoluments clause, will join us next.
And later, we`ll get an important update on Maria Isabel Buesos` situation from her representative in Congress. And on August 13th, she received a letter that said she had 33 days to leave the country. Today is day 32.
O`DONNELL: Today, President Trump lost a big round in one of the emoluments cases filed against him in federal court. An appeals court in New York ruled that a lawsuit against the president brought under the emoluments clause of the Constitution can proceed.
A federal trial court had dismissed that case with the federal judge there saying the case appeared to be politically motivated. Today, the appeals court said, "while it is certainly possible that these lawsuits are fueled in part by political motivations, we do not understand the significance of that fact.
Whether a lawsuit has political motivations is irrelevant to these determinative issues. While the existence of a political motivation for a lawsuit does not supply standing, nor does it defeat standing."
Joining us now is Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is suing President Trump for violating the emoluments clause. Noah, this is one of your cases. Your reaction to how the court ruled today?
NOAH BOOKBINDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY & ETHICS: Well, we`re thrilled with how the court ruled today. We`re obviously not happy that two and a half years on, we`re in a place where this lawsuit is not only as important as it was the day we brought it, the president`s first day in the Oval Office, but so much more important.
We were worried when we brought this lawsuit that the president in holding onto ownership of his businesses would be using the presidency, not just to enrich himself but to create these conflicts of interest where those who were seeking to influence him could patronize his businesses and then you wouldn`t know whether he was acting in the interest of the country or in his own business and financial interests.
And that has come true in spades. We`ve seen that more and more brazenly lately. And so it`s even more important that these cases be able to go forward in the courts and we`re glad that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the courts at a level just below the U.S. Supreme Court said that that could happen today.
O`DONNELL: And it should be noted that you`re working in novel legal territory. It`s not like we have a bunch of case law on presidents violating the emoluments clause.
BOOKBINDER: That`s absolutely right. There are three cases currently pending against the president for this, the one that CREW, joined by business owners who compete with the president`s hotels, but obviously can`t offer access and influence over the president.
There`s the ones that they -- there`s that case that was the one that was decided today. There`s a case that the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland brought. And the case that members of Congress brought.
But prior to this, you didn`t have any federal courts considering this issue of the emoluments clauses of the Constitution. This is really new territory and it`s really important that the abuses stop.
O`DONNELL: We had 44 presidents with none of them running businesses trying to make money off the federal government.
BOOKBINDER: That`s right. If the emoluments clauses of the Constitution were not household names, it was not something that most people knew about because presidents just followed them. Presidents didn`t try to keep global businesses going while they were serving.
They didn`t take money from the federal government and the states and foreign governments while in office. They just followed the law. President Obama went through a lot of deliberations to figure out whether or not he could accept the Nobel Prize and whether that would violate the emoluments clause.
President Trump just blew through that and, you know, we -- CREW put out a report just weeks ago finding that there have been now been 2,300 conflicts of interest between the president`s businesses, the presidency and those trying to influence it.
This is something that`s happening every day and that he not only has no qualms about violating, but seems intent to use the presidency to advance his businesses on a daily basis.
O`DONNELL: A big win for Noah Bookbinder today in court. Thank you very much for joining us today. We really appreciate it.
BOOKBINDER: Thanks so much for having me.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the Trump administration told Maria Isabel Bueso that she has to leave the country by tomorrow or face deportations. The man who represents her congressional district where she lives in California, Mark DeSaulnier, will join us. He has been fighting to save Isabel. He will join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARIA ISABEL BUESO, RECIPIENT OF MEDICAL DEFERRED ACTION: I`m asking Congress and the administration to come together and to right the wrong of this change in policy. This is not a partisan issue. This is a humanitarian issue. And our lives depend on it. Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Maria Isabel Bueso testifying for her life in Congress on Wednesday. The Trump administration sent her and other patients suffering with deadly illnesses letters telling them they had to leave the country by tomorrow or be deported.
This was an unannounced change in policy by the Trump administration for people who are in this country to receive life-saving medical care. After Isabel`s story went public, the Trump administration sent letters to Isabel and other patients telling them that their cases were being re-opened, but the letters did not explain what re-opened means and the letters did not explain what would happen next.
And joining us now by phone is Democratic Congressman Mark DeSaulnier who represents the California congressional district where Isabel Bueso lives with her family and where she has been participating in medical studies that have helped save and extend the lives of Americans who suffer from the rare disease that Isabel has been struggling with all of her 24 years.
Congressman, we are certain that Isabel is not going to be deported tomorrow, but do we know anything else about what happens next?
REP. MARK DESAULNIER (D-CA) (via telephone): Not really. We have a six- hour hearing, Lawrence, as you know, and thanks for inviting me on and all your reporting on this --
O`DONNELL: We`re having trouble with the Congressman`s telephone connection to us. I`m not sure if we have him. I just want to read a memo that was used in a meeting last week about this policy that "Politico" published today. It is from the Policy and Strategy Chief, Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, on the Citizenship and Immigration Services.
And she wrote in that memo that her department and she - she "strongly believes that the exercise of deferred actions in subject to abuse," and she said "if we continue to accept such requests, even with narrow medical criteria, we will be creating a de facto program of criteria, which are not enumerated in the statute of regulations and that runs counter to the President`s agenda to enforce our existing laws."
So there is the memo, the smoking gun so far, in the investigation of who is responsible for this. And that`s Kathy Nuebel Kovarik saying that this enforcing the President`s agenda, the President`s immigration agenda, to enforce our existing laws against people like Isabel, who you`re seeing on this screen right now.
She was not the only beneficiary - medical beneficiary of this program to testify on Wednesday. Let`s listen to Jonathan Sanchez in Wednesday`s hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN SANCHEZ, RECIPIENT OF MEDICAL DEFERRED ACTION: The day our lawyers told us that the medical deferred action program was canceled, I started crying and telling my mom I don`t want to die, I don`t want to die. If I go back to Honduras, I will die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: According to Kathy Nuebel Kovarik`s memo, Jonathan Sanchez is one of the people who, in her view, might be abusing this program. She is claiming that because of abuse, people like Jonathan Sanchez cannot be allowed to stay in this country and have to be sent to their deaths. In his case, back to Honduras.
Congressman DeSaulnier is back with us on the phone. And Congressman, this memo from "Politico" that`s been reported on today, I was just reading that for the audience. I know you`ve seen it. And this makes it pretty clear that it was part of Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, as she put it, the department and she strongly believe that this program was subject to abuse and had to be stopped.
REP. MARK DESAULNIER (D-CA) (via telephone): So we`d like them to demonstrate that. We have asked for all our documents the Oversight Committee staff has assured me today that we will get those. Looks like we`re going to have to issue subpoenas, because as usual, the administration is not forthcoming.
O`DONNELL: I think we`re losing the Congressman`s telephone connection again. He`s driving out there in the district somewhere. There`s a lot of hills and valleys there.
Congressman DeSaulnier, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
DESAULNIER (via telephone): You`re welcome.
O`DONNELL: We appreciate your attempt to connect with us.
We`re going to be right back with more. When we come back, the most intense part of last night`s Presidential debate was also the ugliest part of last night`s Presidential debate. It was the part of the debate that provoked Pete Buttigieg to say "This is why Presidential debates are becoming unwatchable." That was his word, "unwatchable." It was also the least important part of that debate, what Pete Buttigieg called the unwatchable part. I`ll show you why, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington. Scoring points against each other, poking at each other, and telling each other that your - my plan, your plan. Look, we all have different--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That`s called a Democratic--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The immutable law of Presidential campaign debates is the more you know about government and policy, the less satisfying the debate is. Many of the lines that get the biggest reaction in Presidential debates are declarations of hope on matters that are completely under the control of Congress. The most stirring line in last night`s debate was one of those.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And in Odessa, I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15. And that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland. There weren`t enough ambulances to get to them in time. Hell, yes, we`re going to take your AR-15, your AK- 47.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
O`ROURKE: They`re not going to be allowed to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: As usual, the health care section of the debate was the longest and most contentious part of the debate, as it veered out of control with confusing policy points and interruptions and insults. Senator Kamala Harris said the most important thing that voters have to know about health care policy right now in America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody on this stage, I do believe, is well intentioned and wants that all Americans have coverage and recognizes that right now 30 million Americans don`t have coverage. But at least five people have talked, some repeatedly, on this subject, and not once have we talked about Donald Trump.
So let`s talk about the fact that Donald Trump came into office and spent almost the entire first year of his term trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. We all fought against it, and then the late great John McCain at that moment at about 2 o`clock in the morning killed his--
HARRIS: --attempt to take health care from millions of people in this country.
Fast forward to today, and what is happening? Donald Trump`s Department of Justice is trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Donald Trump`s administration is trying to get rid of the ban that we placed on denying people who have pre-existing conditions covered. Donald Trump is trying our kids up to the age of 26 can no longer be on our plans.
And frankly, I think this discussion is giving the American public a headache. What they want to know is that they`re going to have health care and costs will not be a barrier to getting it. But let`s focus on the end goal. If we don`t get Donald Trump out of office, he`s going to get rid of all of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 15 seconds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And yes, a Republican Senator, John McCain, got applause right there in the middle of the Democrats` health care debate. You can ignore everything else that the candidates say about health care policy in the debates because everything else they say is entirely under the control of Congress. And as President, each one of them will sign whatever Democrats in Congress manage to pass.
In 2008, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama argued endlessly about health care policy. The chief difference being Hillary Clinton was in favor of an individual mandate and Barack Obama was opposed to it, and in the end, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act with an individual mandate, thereby proving that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton`s disagreements about health care were completely ignorable. Each of them was going to sign whatever version Congress managed to pass.
No one on that stage last night knows what Congress is capable of passing on health care. And the moderators didn`t ask a question about health care that is within the powers of the presidency. The only power the President has in relation to legislation is to sign or veto it.
And so the relevant question, which could really shorten the health care section of the debate, you could do it with one of those quick show-of- hands moments, you could ask for a show of hands on the question of "will you sign whatever health care bill a Democratic House and Democratic Senate manages to pass?"
And the real answer is, every one of them will sign whatever a Democratic Congress can pass. If that`s Medicare for all, Joe Biden is going to sign it. If it`s strengthening the Affordable Care Act, President Bernie Sanders is going to sign it.
Here is the right way - the right way to ask a Presidential candidate a question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s been the debate around reparations for descendants of African slaves. If you are elected President, Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of Congress, has a bill calling for a commission to study reparations. If that bill were to pass and come to your desk, would you sign it?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the House and Senate passed that bill, of course I would sign it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: If the House and Senate passed that bill, of course I would sign it. One other answer is there. Al Sharpton`s question forced one of those rare moments in a Presidential campaign. A candidate admitting that legislating is really all up to the House and Senate. Here is a sample of the candidates remembering who they are really running against.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUTTIGIEG: When I first got into this race, I remember President Trump scoffed and said he`d like to see me making a deal with Xi Jinping. I`d like to see him making a deal with Xi Jinping.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a guy there that is literally running our country like a game show.
O`ROURKE: We have a white supremacist in the White House, and he poses a mortal threat to people of color all across this country.
SANDERS: We must and will defeat Trump, the most dangerous President in the history of this country.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s enormous, enormous opportunities once we get rid of Donald Trump.
HARRIS: And now President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our debate about the debate now is Maria Teresa Kumar, the President and CEO of Voto Latino, an MSNBC contributor. She was at the debate in Houston last night. And E.J. Dionne, opinion writer for "The Washington Post," is with us. He`s a visiting professor at Harvard University. He is the co-author of "One Nation After Trump."
Maria Teresa, you were there. So your - what were the--
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT, VOTO LATINO: I wish you had been too, Lawrence.
KUMAR: --tensed everything.
O`DONNELL: What were the parts of the debate that you focused on the most?
KUMAR: When they started talking about gun control and gun safety and how every single Presidential candidate gave a hat tip to Beto O`Rourke and recognized his leadership and recognized that he was able to step up, and how he took it graciously. And I think at first he was quite surprised, but then he started owning it, and then he started talking that famous line that "I`m going to confiscate all your guns." And the room went bananas.
And the reason the room went bananas is because he understands this game, I think, more distinctly than others, and that is that he needs to ensure that white suburban moms stay with the Democratic Party, they don`t want to go back to school and try to buy bulletproof backpacks, they want their kids to be safe, and he needs to grow the electoral base.
The people - the majority of the folks that were in that hall yesterday were people of color. We were at a historically black college. They understand what gun violence means intimately. Here in Texas, where you have 2.5 million unregistered Latinos who he wants in his camp, he really understood it.
But then I also - what I also found a lot of affection was for Amy Klobuchar. She was able to stand her ground, she was able to talk about, "hey, I`m the person in the middle, if you want someone from the Midwest."
Lawrence, when we started looking at the electoral map, the Democrats basically need to look at seven states in order to really win. And the sensibilities that will really touch the southwest, whether it`s Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and when you`re talking about Wisconsin, Minnesota, those are the individuals that we need to move. And I think she did a really strong job.
And I also - something that folks - that`s been a little bit under the radar was the fact that when Andrew Yang was asking for folks, saying, "hey, if you put in your name and collect names, then I`ll give you a thousand dollars," what folks didn`t realize is that it must be that he must be losing money. That was one of the easiest ways on a national stage to collect names and transfer that to donations. So we may not see him on the stage next time.
O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne, I`m imagining you as a little boy in Fall River, Massachusetts, watching the very first televised Presidential debate in 1960. I`m assuming you`ve seen every one of them in the history of televised debates. What did you make of last night?
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST OP-ED COLUMNIST, HARVARD UNIVERSITY VISITING PROFESSOR & CO-AUTHOR, ONE NATION AFTER TRUMP: Well, first of all, I would like you to be a debate questioner and ask that right here.
KUMAR: Right. Me too.
DIONNE: And - because - that`s exactly right. And I was struck, in fact, by the contentiousness yet again over single payer versus expanding Obamacare. And the Democrats are going to waste a whole lot of time having this very divisive argument when, in fact, something will get to the President`s desk that will, if they`re lucky, that will be a combination of these things or a little short of these things. So I think that`s important.
The second thing that really struck me was that tableau you had just before we went on the air. More than the other two debates, Democrats were finally saying, hey, wait a minute, our opponent is Donald Trump. They remembered that the opponent was Donald Trump in a way they didn`t in the earlier debates. And I thought that actually sent a much more powerful message. I don`t think any eight-year-old kid would stay up and watch that whole thing last night. A three-hour debate was a terrible ordeal for everybody.
But the last thing is, I think this debate did not really move the Presidential race at all. I think Biden did well enough. He was strong at the beginning, got a little weaker at the end. He had that appeal to hipsters by talking about record players. Aren`t they into vinyl these days? People aren`t giving him credit for how he - what he had in mind there.
DIONNE: But - and I think Elizabeth Warren almost played as a frontrunner. She knows--
DIONNE: --she is really within reach of Iowa and New Hampshire. But it may have changed on issues. I think you`re probably going to see people pulling back from health care like you suggest, and I think Beto, as Maria Teresa suggested, really pushed the gun issue to a different place. And I think that`s important.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to something Elizabeth Warren said, and E.J., it`s one of those moments where she brought up President Obama. President Obama made quite a comeback in this debate last night. But she also added a point, which is similar to what Senator Harris said, indicating that they basically all agree on health care and on the need to improve access, coverage and try to get to universal coverage. Let`s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We all owe a huge debt to President Obama, who fundamentally transformed health care in America and committed this country to health care for every human being.
WARREN: And now the question is, how best can we improve on it? And I believe the best way we can do that is we make sure that everybody gets covered by health care at the lowest possible cost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Maria Teresa, that`s the basic argument. That`s the generic position. Everybody gets covered at the lowest possible cost. Once they get beyond that, into the details, it`s not up to them. It`s up for the Senate Finance Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee. And if there`s a Republican Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, zero is going to happen.
KUMAR: That`s exactly right. And they have to stick to that. I think that what a lot of Americans are looking for is that not only is it important to defeat Donald Trump, but what is your vision for unifying America? Where are we going to go? So this idea of having these lofty ideas for the American public moving forward, people want to hear that. But fundamentally, you`re absolutely right. Who decides what legislation gets passed? That is the House - that`s Congress.
And so what`s important in the debate is having this conversation of, well, if you`re going to run for office, are you going to make sure - are the Democrats going to make sure that will not only hold on to the House, but is there a chance at the Senate? Is there a chance at the White House? And the more they can talk about, again, a vision for the country is very important.
And I do think that yesterday, one of the things that also resonated was Julian Castro, when he started talking about what was happening in El Paso and the El Paso shooting, and he brought it home, when he was saying, look, he was trying to kill someone like me who was inspired by the words of the President. And he spoke specifically about how this President is talking about racism and doesn`t want to take responsibility. And this is a very real issue in the Latino community. And for the first time he gave it voice and he gave it structure.
And my hope is that as the candidates start talking more about these issues, that they really start talking about the Latino experience here in America, not just around immigration but what it is to be an American- Latino under this Presidency, where just in the month of August, after this terrible shooting, after the largest raids in our country`s history that also brought in a lot of U.S. citizens unfortunately, he has looked directly at dismantling 13 different programs that disproportionately impact the Latino community.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to squeeze in a break here, and we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to commend Beto for how well he`s spoken to the passion and the frustration and the sadness after what happened in his hometown of El Paso. He`s done a great job with that.
BIDEN: By the way, the way Beto handled - excuse me for saying Beto - Congressman--
O`ROURKE: That`s all right. That sounds good.
BIDEN: The way he handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful. To look in the eyes of those people, to see those kids, to understand those parents, to understand the heart ache--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But this is the problem.
BIDEN: --we are ready to do this.
O`ROURKE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice President, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the problem--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We`re back with Maria Teresa Kumar and E.J. Dionne.
Maria Teresa, what did it feel like in Texas? You were down there for that moment because that was clearly a moment where everyone was not just reaching out to Beto O`Rourke but to Texas and what Texas has suffered in these mass murders.
KUMAR: Yes. So there was a delegation that as Congresswoman Escobar had brought from El Paso that of individuals who had actually been part of the shooting. And I had a chance to talk to them. And they were just - they were grateful to be there, but more importantly, the support that they were receiving from the country. And there`s real conversations in Texas for the first time of making sure that we`re talking about stand-your-ground. I thought you were (ph) actually talking about gun reform in a substantive way.
And when Elizabeth Warren was talking about gun reform, when Beto was talking about gun reform, in a state that is historically a red state that is opening its ideas of making sure that they have more gun safety, really it should speak to the Democrats. There`s an incredible opportunity to make sure that that state turns blue.
And that is - but that means meeting people where they are, making sure that they`re - recognizing that Texas is more on the conservative moderate side of the Democratic Party, and being there for them. But the fact, again, that you have so many Texans right now that are so aware that the gun issues, whether it`s El Paso or Odessa, that it`s a real problem and it`s hitting home, that it has to stop. It was uplifting to have had the debate there because people felt that they were being heard, they were being recognized. And Texans really tuned in.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And E.J., I just wanted to clarify. The thing I said earlier about how these things are up to Congress, I`m not suggesting then that in these debates that the candidates should not say aspirational things that aren`t currently possible within the Congressional dynamics that we live with now. And this is a clear example of it.
And what`s also fascinating about it is it`s very unlikely that there`s anyone else on that stage who actually agrees with Beto O`Rourke or would be willing to publicly agree with Beto O`Rourke about a buyback of these assault weapons to just take all of these assault weapons out of private hands. And yet, none of them felt compelled to rush into an argument about it and disagree on the very specific policy details that could have been brought up on that.
DIONNE: Well, first of all, in their heart of hearts, I think they do agree with Beto O`Rourke, and they just worry still about the politics. But Joe Biden made an important point when he went back to the (inaudible) gun reform bill, that was fairly narrow that got 54 votes in the Senate, which was a majority, but lost in the filibuster.
And he noted how much this issue has changed over time. Voters who voted on the gun issue in the 2018 election voted 70 percent Democratic in the House races. He referenced the students after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. There has been a real sea change on the gun issue that you saw reflected in that debate last night.
And related to that, the other point made that was very important, Elizabeth Warren was the one person who stood up and said we`ve got to end the filibuster in the Senate because if the Democrats do win the Senate, which is still going to be tough, they are not going to have a big majority. And if there is a brief period with a Democratic President, a Democratic Senate, and a Democratic House, they`re going to want to get a lot done. And if there is a filibuster, a lot of what they want to get done will not get done.
O`DONNELL: And once again, that`s something that isn`t up to the President. And they don`t all agree on that. I mean, Bernie Sanders is--
O`DONNELL: --pretty reluctant. And the truth is, most senators are pretty reluctant about getting rid of the filibuster because they`ve lived on the beneficiary side of the filibuster.
Maria Teresa, a quick last word.
KUMAR: No. I think that - again, the fact that the - yesterday it was - the debate that was yesterday held in Texas, it was incredibly meaningful for the people there. And it was a relief to actually see people talking on stage that reflected America. We had three women. We had an Asian, we had African-Americans, we had Latino. We had what America really is. And I think that is what resonated most.
And the fact that you can see young people tuning in and children tuning in and saying, this is a country that I identify with, that alone says what the Democratic Party really is and the progressive movement.