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McConnell, Pelosi at impasse. TRANSCRIPT: 12/23/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Bina Venkataraman, Rina Shah, Robert Jordan, Maria Echaveste

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST:  Hey, good evening, I was going to say, Ice is back with a brand new invention. 


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  Take it away, friend.  That was good. 

MOHYELDIN:  All right.  Thank so much, Ali.  Appreciate it.

We have a lot to get to, folks. 

Today, a new editorial hits, saying Senate Majority Mitch McConnell -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a clear and present danger to the Constitution.  We`re going to talk about that. 

And as the impeachment stalemate continues, is there a chance moderate Republicans will buck their leader and President Trump in support of impeachment witnesses in the Senate? 

Also ahead, the show trial this Saudi Arabia for the murder of U.S. journalist, U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  U.S. intelligence says the crown prince ordered the assassination.  But today anyone close to the prince was cleared of wrongdoing.  Trump White House quickly followed with a statement of support for that verdict.  The former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia will be here as well. 

And later, one of THE LAST WORD`s favorite freshmen Congresswomen Katie Porter, she is ending her first year on Capitol Hill on a very high note, and there will be a special LAST WORD from Lawrence and Rachel. 

But we want to begin this hour with the stalemate over the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump amid a renewed push from Democrats for witnesses to testify, in fact, witnesses that the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not actually want.  He has already declared that he will not be an impartial juror in all of this.  He is coordinating trial strategy with the White House.  And he has rejected Minority Leader Chuck Schumer`s request for any witnesses before the trial even begins. 

A new editorial in "The Bulwark" argues that Mitch McConnell is a danger to the Constitution and a problem for America.  Editor at large Bill Kristol writes, quote: McConnell`s actions to date prevent the Senate from organizing the trial, whatever the ultimate verdict, in a way consistent with the constitutional design and with a sense of fairness in the body politic.  He is fundamentally distorting our constitutional norms and damaging the health of American politics.

Today, the Democrats` case for more witnesses grew stronger this weekend after damning new evidence further linked the hold on Ukraine`s military aid with Donald Trump`s demand for an investigation into his political rival.  Newly released e-mails show that 90 minutes, 90 minutes after Donald Trump asked Ukraine`s president to do us a favor, though, a senior official in the Office of Management and Budget e-mailed the Pentagon to freeze the aid to Ukraine and more importantly keep quiet about it, writing, quote: Please hold off on any additional department of defense obligations of these funds pending direction from that process.Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate you keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction. 

Now, that e-mail was sent by Mike Duffey, who`s one of the four witnesses that Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to testify.  He wants him along with acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton. 

Now, the White House called the timing a "coincidence." 

But following those revelations Senator Schumer reiterated why those witnesses need to testify. 


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  What happened over the weekend with Duffey`s e- mails that were made public has only bolstered the case that documents should be produced and witnesses testify if everything was on the up and up.  If the call was perfect, as President Trump said, why does one of his top aides, who`s a political appointee, say let`s keep it hush-hush? 


MOHYELDIN:  Now, Chuck Schumer also argued in favor of a fair trial with documents and witnesses in a letter to his Senate colleagues today, writing, quote, to oppose the admission of this evidence would be to turn a willfully blind eye to the facts and would clearly be at odds with the obligation of senators to do impartial justice according to the oath we will all take in the impeachment trial.

But Mitch McConnell, he dismissed any argument about impartiality in the Senate impeachment trial on what else but Fox News just this morning. 


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  Do you think Chuck Schumer`s impartial?  Do you think Elizabeth Warren`s impartial? 


MCCONNELL:  Bernie Sanders is impartial? 

So let`s quit the charade.  This is a political exercise.  If we haven`t ruled out witnesses, we`ve said let`s handle this case just like we did with President Clinton.  Fair is fair. 


MOHYELDIN:  But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not budging on sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate until Mitch McConnell negotiates the rules of that trial.  Today, she held firm tweeting, quote: The House cannot choose our impeachment managers until we know what sort of trial the Senate will conduct.  President Trump blocked his own witnesses and documents from the House and from the American people on phony complaints about the House process.  What is his excuse now?

Minutes later, President Trump, who is waiting for the Senate trial to vindicate him, tweeted this: Pelosi gives us the most unfair in the history of the U.S. Congress and now she is crying for fairness in the Senate and breaking all rules while doing so.  She lost Congress once.  She will do it again.

All right.  Leading off our discussion tonight is Jonathan Alter, columnist for "The Daily Beast" and an MSNBC political analyst.  Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst.  And Bina Venkataraman, editorial page editor for the "Boston Globe" whose recent editorial urges all senators and Chief Justice John Roberts to take more of an active role in the Senate impeachment trial. 

Let me start with you, if I can, Bina, and ask you about that article you`re making about the chief justice playing a bigger role here.  Right now by most people`s understanding, this ball is really in the court of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.  With consultation with Chuck Schumer he`ll set the rules for this. 

But what is the argument you`re making, what is the role Chief Justice John Roberts can play here and what should he play? 

BINA VENKATARAMAN, THE BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR:  Well, it`s one of the only explicit rules given to the chief justice by the Constitution, to preside over an impeachment trial in the Senate to remove the president.  And ceremoniously this role has been played in the past in sort of a removed way.  If you remember Chief Justice Rehnquist during the Clinton impeachment trial he was really kind of hands off.  He was most notable for wearing a robe that ripped off of Gilbert and Sullivan`s Iolanthe and had four gold stripes on either sleeve. 

But in fact there is a more muscular role that can be played by the chief justice in this instance.  Of course, McConnell -- Majority Leader McConnell will set the rules.  But we`re calling on Chief Justice John Roberts to play that role because we`re in an unprecedented time where the norms of impartiality, where the Senate majority leader has basically vowed to violate or to not abide by his oath to be an impartial juror.  And I think at this moment, we need to implore the chief justice to play a stronger role. 

MOHYELDIN:  This, Jonathan, is as much of a test for the United States Senate and how they perform their role in this constitutional obligation they have as much as anything else.  And what is your assessment on how and whether or not the U.S. Senate led by Mitch McConnell will actually rise to the occasion and do their job? 

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It`s a very simple question.  Are you for a real trial or a fake trial?  A trial that has no witnesses and no documents is by definition a fake trial.  Not just unfair but a sham and a joke. 

And so, what Susan Collins and Martha McSally and Cory Gardner and maybe two or three others are going to have to decide is not whether they`re going to convict or not.  We know that that is highly unlikely, but whether they`re going to vote for a fake trial or a real trial.  If they vote against witnesses, and they`re going to get a chance to vote on this, if they vote against witnesses they`re going to have to explain to their constituents in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and other states why they vote ford a fake trial. 

I think that`s going to be very hard for them to do, which is why I think that McConnell is not holding very many cards right now.  We`re so accustomed to this guy being this legislative genius, master of the Senate, that the rules here are different.  They`re not under his control.  And I don`t think he has the four votes he needs in order to have the sham fake trial in the U.S. Senate. 

MOHYELDIN:  Let me ask you, Jill, really quickly from your perspective is the president in need of a vindication through as Jonathan put it a real trial or do you think that he can sell himself to the American public with a sham trial?  Because it doesn`t seem as least from what we`ve been hearing Mitch McConnell say and the president say they`re really serious about a fair trial that could really exonerate the president. 

JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  I think for the people who are his loyal supporters, who will not vary no matter what happens, it doesn`t matter whether it`s fake or real.  But there are enough people in America who are undecided, who need to see a fair trial and who may be persuaded.  And the senators who vote against a full and fair trial are going to have to either explain why they voted against a fair trial or they`re going to have to explain why they didn`t pay attention to the evidence once it`s admitted. 

So, if a fair trial happens, there is a chance that some Republicans will end up voting to convict the president and remove him from office.  During Watergate that`s what would have happened.  That`s why Richard Nixon resigned rather than face the trial because senators went to him and said we`ve seen the evidence and the evidence is compelling, you will be convicted.  And I still have that slight glimmer of hope that there will be senators who actually listen to the trial. 

And there`s a big difference between saying I have a bias and saying I will not vote fairly in a trial.  You can have an opinion and still be seated as a juror.  You have to be willing to say I will set aside my opinion and I will vote on this case based on the evidence presented in the trial.  So if senators have a bias, that`s OK.  As long as they`re willing to say I`ll put it aside and I will vote based on the evidence. 

And so far, the evidence is very compelling.  And now, today, more came out that`s even more compelling because you can`t say it`s a coincidence that it happened 90 minutes after the phone call that the OMB was told to hold the money.  And that`s just not a coincidence, or if it is a coincidence then the fact that you announced the Saudi Arabia trial outcome, which was clearly not a fair trial, is a coincidence that it`s parallel to this one. 

MOHYELDIN:  Let me play for you guys this commercial, Jonathan, that Republicans for the Rule of Law are urging by asking people to vote for their -- call their senators and put pressure on them.  Listen to this. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Key witnesses in the Ukraine scandal must testify in the Senate impeachment trial.  These witnesses include Rudy Giuliani. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden? 



REPORTER:  What you just described is a quid pro quo. 

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  There`s going to be political influence in foreign policy. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Rudy Giuliani delivered Ukraine files to Mike Pompeo. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A lawyer for John Bolton says his client has new information on these meetings with Ukraine. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  These witnesses must testify.  Call your senators now. 


MOHYELDIN:  So, that`s the Republicans for the rule of law, Jonathan, urging citizens and others to call their senators.  Is that tactic, is that strategy likely to work on somebody like Mitch McConnell? 

ALTER:  It`s not going to work on Mitch McConnell, but it`s not directed at Mitch McConnell.  These are the same folks who wrote that article in "The Bulwark" that you reported at the top, and that`s Bill Kristol.  Remember, these are old-line Republicans.  Bill Kristol was a very, very important Republican, especially 15, 20 years ago when he was -- a lot of people thought he was running the country.  He was working for George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle, and George W. Bush. 

So that part of the old Republican Party, you can say, well, they`re history.  They were taken over by the Trump party. 

But if you`re looking at people like Susan Collins, you know, Gardner and McSally, these folks have a lot of people in their states who don`t love Trump.  They might be conservative.  They might be independents.  And it`s directed at them. 

The question is will they say to their senators you just can`t go with McConnell on this?  If you do you`re going to get punished not in a primary but in a general election where you need the independents and you need the swing voters to hang on to your seats.  So that`s directed mostly at people in those states.  So people watching here from Arizona, Colorado, Maine. 

MOHYELDIN:  Yes, they`re the ones that are expected to --

ALTER:  They`re the ones they hope will contact their senators and say don`t vote with McConnell, vote for a real, not a fake trial. 

MOHYELDIN:  Let me read you this tweet from Senator Lindsey Graham about the dynamic unfolding with Nancy Pelosi.  He writes: Stop playing games with the Constitution.  In our system, you cannot be the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader at the same time.  The Senate will decide how we dispose of this sham created by the House.

How long do you think Nancy Pelosi has to hold out on here before transmitting those articles of impeachment to the Senate?  How much pressure is she going to come under by folks like Senator Lindsey Graham? 

VENKATAMARAN:  Look, Nancy Pelosi knows not to bring a knife to a gunfight, to use a violent metaphor.  But she`s basically trying to establish that this should be a fair trial, and she`s in the process of violating some norms of how we would normally do this and -- but we know that we`re -- again, we know we`ve seen the Senate majority leader continue to violate constitutional norms.  So she`s bringing that same sort of position to this negotiation. 

Now, there might be a point at which the American public starts to lose interest in impeachment.  And I think that this new announcement today that they could bring a second article of impeachment in the House based on Don McGahn, based on Don McGahn, the former White House counsel`s testimony, is a way to sort of potentially hedge against that.  So they could be able to recreate a new process in the House that keeps this very alive in the American public`s eyes. 

Now, that could have real costs because we`re going into the election year of course and the Democratic primaries are beginning.  We`re going to be heading into Iowa and New Hampshire.  So I think she`s going to be balancing those different concerns. 

MOHYELDIN:  Jill, let me get your final thoughts on the piece of information we learned from those e-mails over the weekend.  And most interestingly as I pointed out earlier, this tidbit where the official from the Office of Management and Budget is directing the Pentagon official to be quiet about the freeze itself.  As a former Watergate prosecutor, what is the significance of that, when you have a government official telling another government official hey, we may be doing something here, keep it quiet? 

WINE-BANKS:  This doesn`t take my experience in Watergate to answer.  Just as a citizen listening to that I know and every citizen listening knows that it`s because there`s bad things happening, that there`s bad information that would come forward, and that they have to hide it.  It`s a cover-up.  It`s the kind of thing that shows guilty intent. 

It shows that the president had his orders followed through when he had that phone call, 90 minutes later, there was somebody following up on it saying don`t release that money.  That`s what people at meetings with the president do. 

Haldeman was best known for taking very complete notes and following up on anything the president said in any meeting.  When he said something, Haldeman made sure that that got carried out.  The president doesn`t do it.  His minions do. 

MOHYELDIN:  All right.  Jonathan Alter, Jill Wine-Banks, thank you very much.  Bina Venkataraman, thank you as well for joining us.

And coming up, the White House is it still at it pushing conspiracy theories backed by Vladimir Putin and not by our own intelligence services.  The big risks are up next.

And later, after dozens of elected officials demand the resignation of Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, now another damning story about him surfaces and it involves secret plans to essentially spy on migrant families. 


MOHYELDIN:  The Trump administration continues to spread false conspiracy theories as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial.  In fact, yesterday, Mike Pence`s chief of staff pushed the debunked theory that Ukraine was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. 


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Does President Trump still believe that it was Ukraine, not Russia that interfered in the 2016 election? 

MARC SHORT, MIKE PENCE`S CHIEF OF STAFF:  Chris, it doesn`t have to be either/or.  It can be both. 

WALLACE:  Does the president believe that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election? 

SHORT:  He thinks we should at least investigate it, Chris.  We`re not questioning Russia`s interference, Chris.  I`m accepting that.  But it doesn`t mean that just because Russia interfered it doesn`t mean others didn`t as well. 


MOHYELDIN:  And as we reported, there is no evidence that Ukraine interfered in the election.  In fact, even -- at least 17 American intelligence agencies have traced that theory back to Russia saying that Ukraine has not interfered in U.S. elections. 

"The New York Times" reports that Russia had engaged in a years-long campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow`s own hacking of the 2016 election.  New reporting details just how much influence Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have on our own president.  The "Washington Post" reports that Trump grew insistent that Ukraine had worked to defeat him in the 2016 campaign. 

One former senior White House official said that Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying that he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because Putin told me.

Vladimir Putin is sticking by Trump through the impeachment, though, attacking House Democrats at his end of year news conference. 


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator):  House of Representatives is the Democratic majority.  They`ve lost the election and they`re trying to revise this history with the means that they have at their disposal. 


MOHYELDIN:  All right.  Joining us now is Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst.  And Rina Shah, Republican strategist and partner at Red Fort Strategies. 

Great to have both of you. 

Glenn, let me begin with you and talk about the fact that Marc Short, the vice president`s chief of staff, continues to push this Ukraine conspiracy theory out there in the public without any evidence whatsoever to back it up, saying it should be investigated. 

How do you explain that, that we`re, you know, almost three years beyond the election and the Republicans, particularly Trump and his White House, continue to peddle this conspiracy theory? 

GLENN KIRCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  I mean, the only way to explain it, Ayman, is that everybody is going to sing whatever tune Trump tells them to sing. 

Let`s go back to the most basic fact that tells us all that it was Russia and not Ukraine that interfered in the elections.  Donald Trump stood up, we`ve seen it on an endless loop, and somewhat infamously said, Russia, if you`re listening, find the 30,000 missing e-mails.  Within hours, Ayman, we learned courtesy of the Mueller report that Russian government hackers targeted and cyber-attacked the e-mail accounts of Hillary Clinton staffers. 

Now, that was candidate Donald Trump urging Russia to interfere in our elections.  He didn`t stand up and say, and the way, Ukraine, if you also happen to be listening. 

So the fact that candidate Trump is the one who urged, initiated, inspired the Russian cyberattack is a clue.  You don`t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure that one out. 

And then if we look real quickly at a few data points it all sort of leads to the conclusion that Vladimir Putin owns Donald Trump.  Donald Trump is beholden to him.  Because one, you`ve got as you mentioned Donald Trump saying Putin told me it was Ukraine.  Two, you`ve got -- if you think back to Andy McCabe, remember when Andy McCabe said he and some members of the intelligence community were in the Oval Office briefing Donald Trump on the ballistic missile threat by North Korea and Trump interrupt interrupted and said no, no, no, no, Putin said something different and I believe Putin. 

I mean, everything that we know says that Putin basically owns Donald Trump. 

MOHYELDIN:  Rina, let me play you this sound bite from Fiona Hill`s testimony on November 21st, in which she pretty much admonished I would argue mostly the Republicans on that committee for peddling this Russian conspiracy theory.  Watch this. 


FIONA HILL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR ON RUSSIA:  Based on questions and statements I`ve heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps somehow for some reason Ukraine did.  This is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves. 


MOHYELDIN:  Why do you think Republicans -- I mean, forget the White House here for a moment, but why do you think Republicans, as Fiona Hill was saying to members of the committee, why are they peddling this conspiracy theory?  What is it they have to gain by pushing it forward? 

RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, the way they see it they have nothing to lose.  Congressional Republicans have really started to take on a lot of what Trump does.  You know, they started to wear that sort of mask that Trump wears.  Either they lie, they peddle conspiracy theories, or they get angry.  And usually, it`s a combination of the three, as we`ve seen during the hearings on Capitol Hill. 

But regardless, what they`ve really done is employ that patch and go strategy that leaves a lot of us really flummoxed about how they can possibly withstand the public really coming up against the president -- this administration.  I mean, the country is divided.  Half the people say what he did was impeachable.  Half say what he did was not impeachable. 

Here inside the beltway, a lot of establishment Republicans say this -- I think what he did in regards to Ukraine was impeachable.  However, the Democrats` process, how they`ve done this whole impeachment thing is all wrong.  Outside the beltway, in my home state of West Virginia, for example, they say I don`t think the president`s done anything impeachable.  Him asking Ukraine for a favor is essentially what all these leaders do, isn`t it? 

So I think it really leads us to what we saw on Sunday.  The vice president`s chief of staff in front of Fox News`s Chris Wallace saying the things he said and saying let`s investigate both Russia and Ukraine.  And then he -- it was just -- this is remarkable.  They`ll do anything. 

MOHYELDIN:  Rina, do you expect any Republicans in the Senate to stand up and at least have some kind of backbone in demanding witnesses and a fair trial if not at least going through and acquitting the president but at least demanding a fair trial? 

SHAH:  I still have hope.  I hold out hope for Senator Romney, Senator Collins, Murkowski.  These are people that have cared a great deal about really the principles throughout these 3 1/2 years now.  We`ve really heard them stand up. 

And though Senator Romney seems to have waned on domestic issues at times, I think he likes where he`s at foreign policy-wise and tends to focus a lot there.  I still have hope they`ll stand up and do the right thing because it`s really never too late to do the right thing. 

MOHYELDIN:  All right.  Glenn Kirschner, Rina Shah, I have to leave it that.  Thank you both very much for joining us this evening. 

Up next, the CIA says the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but the Trump White House is standing by a verdict that absolves the crown prince of any wrongdoing while five others are sentenced to death. 

And later, the very good news that is greeting Congresswoman Katie Porter at the end of this year. 


MOHYELDIN: Today a criminal court in Saudi Arabia delivered what critics are calling a travesty of justice. That ruling came in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi which sparked a global outrage last year.

In fact a Saudi court sentenced five men to death in connection to the murder but cleared top Saudi officials believed to be behind the killing. Critics at the UN are calling the verdicts, the antithesis of justice and a mockery.

Meanwhile, a White House senior administration official called the sentencing an important step in holding those responsible for this terrible crime accountable. Donald Trump has stood by Saudi Arabia despite the murder. In fact he sent his son in law Jared Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to a conference there this fall.

The White House made sure to strip out spending measures, banning arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Trump has repeatedly praised Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man the CIA says ordered Khashoggi`s murder.

Joining us now is Robert Jordan, the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2001 to 2003. Ambassador Jordan, great to have you with us. First of all, let me get your initial reaction to this verdict.

You obviously know the criminal system in Saudi Arabia. You know the kingdom better than us. What do you make of the trial and how that was carried out?

ROBERT JORDAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Well, I`m sad to say it`s not a surprise. This is a band aid I think on a much greater problem. They have convicted those who perhaps carried out the murder and dismemberment of Jamal but they have certainly not held accountable those who orchestrated it and put it together.

I think it is a mockery of justice.

MOHYELDIN: One of the aspects in all of this and you again know very well that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a very powerful man and the argument that Saudi officials have been putting forward though was that these were rogue elements, rogue agents who carried out either a misinterpretation of a broader policy to silence dissidence or they just completely went out and acted on their own.

Do you think it is conceivable that in a country with the Crown Prince as powerful as he is, that that many agents could have gotten on a plane, gone to Istanbul, carried all of this out with anyone knowing about it including senior members like the Crown Prince.

JORDAN: No, Ayman, that`s complete baloney and all you have to do is read the accounts of the audio tapes, the surveillance tapes that the Turks had of the consulate. You had first of all two members of the consulate were ordered on a top secret mission to go to Riyadh.

They come back then with the hit team on private airplanes with diplomatic passports. They bring a body double for Jamal who looks like him and they bring a forensic doctor with a bone saw. Now what kind of accident was going to occur. This is absolutely premeditated and it could not have occurred without the full knowledge and consent and direction of the Crown Prince as well as several others who have now been let off the hook.

MOHYELDIN: It obviously puts the United States in general, not just this administration but in a difficult position. Let me read for you Sir, what Adam Schiff had to say today about the verdict. He essentially said, "The Intelligence Authorization Act includes a provision I authored requiring the Director of National Intelligence to provide a report to Congress within 30 days about current or former Saudi officials who played a role or who had advance knowledge of Khashoggi`s murder and requires the names to be provided in an unclassified format unless it would reveal sources and methods. We will insist on the completion of that report."

What leverage does Congress have when you have a President and an administration who are bending over backwards to placate the Saudis? What leverage does Representative Adam Schiff have to get this kind of information and hold the Saudis accountable?

JORDAN: Not very much. I think he has leverage with the American public but we`ve also seeing a President who is gone rogue in connection with the impeachment proceedings. I don`t think we have any reason to believe that he`s going to be any more cooperative on dealing with the Saudis.

The one encouraging feature is that Saud al-Qahtani, the Crown Prince`s right hand man in connection with this murder has been sanctioned by the Treasury Department and as has family. There are a couple of other Saudis who have also been sanctioned. That is the only nugget that I think we have here but I don`t think Congressman Schiff has -has a very strong piece of leverage right now.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, it`ll be interesting to see if Saud al-Qahtani actually now that he wasn`t found guilty in that trial, if his name would be taken off of the sanctions list here in the U.S.

JORDAN: And I think that`s a possibility.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, it certainly is. All right, Ambassador Robert Jordan Sir, thank you very much for joining us this evening. Appreciate your insights.

JORDAN: Thank you. My pleasure.

MOHYELDIN: Up next, Stephen Miller`s secret plan to embed ICE agents inside refugee agencies to get information on migrant families. It is renewing calls for Miller`s resignation. Stay with us.


MOHYELDIN: As we celebrate the holidays, asylum seekers and their children are facing harsh winter conditions at camps along the U.S. - Mexico border. There are multiple reports of migrant children shivering in freezing temperatures. Their parents desperate to protect them as they wait in makeshift tent settlements.

They are facing those conditions because of an immigration policy that has been pushed by President Trump`s senior adviser Stephen Miller. The remain in Mexico policy is forcing over 60,000 asylum seekers to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico for a chance to apply for refugee status.

Stephen Miller was also behind the separation of at least 2700 children from their parents but Stephen Miller is not done. New reporting reveals a spying plan by Stephen Miller in potentially deporting parents and relative to provide their information when they try to get custody of their unaccompanied children.

The Washington Post reports that Stephen Miller hatched a secret planned this month to "embed immigration enforcement agents within the U.S. refugee agency that cares for unaccompanied migrant children." The department of Health and Human Services rejected Miller`s plan. However "they agreed to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents to collect your prints and other biometric information from adults seeking to claim migrant children at government shelters. If those adults are deemed ineligible to take custody of children, ICE could then use their information to target them for arrest and deportation."

The Post reports, "The arrangement appears to circumvent laws that restrict the use of the refugee program for deportation enforcement. Congress has made clear that it does not want those who come forward as potential sponsors of minors in the U.S. custody to be frightened away by possible deportation."

We`re going to discuss the significance of this reporting after the break with NBC news correspondent, Julia Ainsley and former deputy chief of staff to President Clinton, Maria Echaveste.


MOHYELDIN: Today, the House Oversight Committee requested documents for its investigation into "a pattern of negligence and abuse leading to serious harm and the deaths of immigrants detained by the Trump administration." That includes the death of a 16-year old boy.

Now this comes as a Washington Post reports that Stephen Miller tried to make it easier to deport the parents and relatives of unaccompanied migrant children in government custody. Joining us now are Maria Echaveste, former deputy chief of staff to President Clinton and lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley school of law.

Also with us NBC news correspondent Julia Ainsley who covers the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. Great to have both of you with us. Julia, let me begin with you more and talk a little bit more if I may, about what we learned Stephen Miller`s role in this new attempt to exploit the refugee program to deport unaccompanied migrants and any of the adults that may be claiming them.

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: So Ayman, I`m reminded of a trip I took about a year ago down to attend facility in Torneo, Texas near El Paso where there were children who were in a large backlog in the care of Health and Human Services, the very agency Stephen Miller was trying to target.

The reason why they were stuck there is because they were waiting for potential sponsors to come forward and go through a rigorous background check that included the fingerprints and criminal history of every person in the household that they would be going to once they left that camp.

And now pediatrician and psychologists would tell you, it is much better to get a child out of the government custody and into a home but they were none the less still there because of this government policy.

As reporters, we were told over and over again, this is for the care of the children. Now this new reporting shows that actually ICE and the government had a plan to try to use that data, that biometric data, the fingerprints especially if people who are coming forward who did not get to receive the children for whatever reason, that that would actually be used to target them for deportation.

Which is really the realization of fears that the advocate community had had for some time, even under the Obama administration, they worried about a plan that would fingerprint parents that might keep parents from coming forward and so that plan was never put into place under the Obama administration.

So now we have more context as to why these children were waiting there and then we know about a plan, Stephen Miller was working on just this month in order to put someone from ICE in the Health and Human Services agency as someone as kind of a minder or a spy if you will to try to use more information about interviews that children were giving to the government, to try to find out more information so they can target people who brought them here and go after them for deportation.

This is another example of a time where Stephen Miller is trying to use the law enforcement components of DHS and try to mix them in with the components that are supposed to be there caring for children, caring for welfare, very similar thing is actually already happening and did go forward where he uses border agents to conduct asylum interviews.

So they`re - they`re trying to talk to people about their fear of returning home while they have a gun on their belt.

MOHYELDIN: Maria, I wanted to get your thoughts on this startling statistic from Human Rights First and this is a number, it documents the number of attacks on asylum seekers who have been essentially forced to remain in Mexico as a result of this Remain in Mexico policy.

As of December 4th, 2019, there are at least 636 publicly reported cases of murder, rape, torture, kidnapping and other violent assault. Among these reported attacks 138 cases of children returned to Mexico who were kidnapped or nearly kidnapped. That is a direct result of American policy to not let these people seeking refuge or asylum here in the United States.

MARIA ECHAVESTE, FMR DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, those statistics are beyond horrifying and I think every member of the administration that has their finger in the decisions that are leading to those kinds of statistics will one day have to answer to their God or to their beliefs. Now look we all understand that not every single asylum sector seeker may have credible claim under our laws, but to wilfully, put people, families, innocent children and women in danger of their lives of being trafficked.

It`s horrifying but I also want to go back to Julia`s point about what Stephen Miller is now harboring or bringing to light, is it`s really amazing, this - he serves an administration that ostensibly believes in smaller government and worries about the big hand of government.

There is a reason why there is this hard line between - this hard barrier between HHS and ICE, right? You have a responsibility to protect refugees and children and that is why you keep ICE and you start to break down that barrier. What`s to stop that slippery slope?

And it`s to me, just amazing that Stephen Miller continues to have such a control and also just this really is heartless, seems too light a word but is so focused on making sure no immigrant, no matter what reason comes into this country and by the way, it was Stephen Miller`s policy and DHS that caused the separation of children from their families.

So all of this is really mystifying in a very - like we`re Americans, we are better than this and right now this administration is showing the rest of the world and especially to those families that we have lost our way.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, certainly humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding on our southern border as a result of some of these policies are instituted by Stephen Miller and this administration. Julia Ainsley, Maria Echaveste, thank you both for joining us this evening and tonight`s LAST WORD from Lawrence, Rachel and Congresswoman Katie Porter. All that coming up next.


MOHYELDIN: MSNBC`s holiday gift to everyone is brand new shows from everyone in Prime Time tomorrow night. In Lawrence`s special case, he closed us in on his fame for two minutes of every work day. Here`s a big hint.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: For the record, I just want to say there is no symbolic significance whatsoever to the fact that I`m accidentally wearing a blue blazer instead of the same black blazer I`ve been wearing for the past 2.5 years.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, I`m missing a blue blazer in my closet upstairs.

MADDOW: La-la-la.

O`DONNELL: You didn`t do more time? Do you want to because I wouldn`t dare try to do that.

MADDOW: I threw out half my show and I ended with singing on TV. Do you know how messed up all of this is?

O`DONNELL: The Rachel greatest hits of singing on TV.

MADDOW: What everybody`s watching at home doesn`t know and we can`t talk about on TV because it`ll wear them out is that we can see them all, when they`re watching us so when we say see you there, it`s because we can see everybody that is watching through the cameras.

O`DONNELL: You weren`t supposed to say that. That`s why I was trying to cover for you there. I was trying to fix it.

MADDOW: I let out the secret. I can see what everybody`s wearing. I can see what you`re eating. I can the whole thing.


MOHYELDIN: All right, there will be much of the Best Handoffs of the year on tomorrow night`s special. There will also be a brand new interview with one of the show`s favorite freshman members of Congress, Congresswoman Katie Porter.

Has held a master class in making the most of her five minutes of question time in congressional hearings and because of that, she is ending the year with a promotion to the House Oversight Committee.

In announcing the promotion Speaker Pelosi called Porter an unparalleled champion for consumers and working families across America, whose diligence, determination and mastery of the issues strengthened the Congress and the country.

Here`s a look at just some of her hard - handy work this year.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Safe to say that the statements you`ve made it mean something to you and the customers and investors can rely on those statements.

TIM SLOAN, CEO, WELLS FARGO: That`s correct.

PORTER: OK, then why Mr. Sloan, if you don`t mind my asking, Mr. Sloan, are your lawyers in federal court arguing that those exact statements that I read are "paradigmatic examples of non-actionable corporate puffery on which no reasonable investor could rely?

SLOAN: I don`t know why are lawyers are arguing that.

PORTER: Are you lying to a federal judge or are you lying to me and this Congress right now about whether we can rely on those statements?

SLOAN: Neither.

PORTER: It`s convenient for your lawyers to deflect blame in court and say that your re-branding campaign can be ignored as hyperbolic marketing but when then you come to Congress, you want us to take you at your word and I think that`s the disconnect that`s why the American public is having trouble trusting Wells Fargo.

She had 24 - $2425 a month. She rents a one-bedroom apartment. She and her daughter sleep together in the same room in Irvine, California. That average one-bedroom apartment is going to be $1600. She spends $100 on utilities, take away the 1700 and she has net $725. She`s like me. She drives a 2008 minivan and has gas. $400 for car expenses and gas. Net $325. The Department of Agriculture says a low cost food budget that is Raman noodles, a low food budget is $400. That leaves her $77 in the red. She has a cricket cell phone, the cheapest cell phone she can get for $40. She`s in the read $117 a month.

She`s after school child care because the bank is open during normal business hours. That`s 450 a month. That takes her down to negative $567 per month. My question for you Mr. Dimon is how should she manage this budget shortfall while she`s working full time at your bank?

JAMIE DIMON: I don`t know. I have to think about that.

PORTER: Would you recommend that she take out a JP Morgan Chase credit card and run a deficit?

DIMON: I don`t know. I`d have to think about it.

PORTER: Would you recommend that she overdraft at your bank and be charged overdraft fees?

DIMON: I don`t know. I`d have to think about it.

PORTER: So I know you have a lot--

DIMON: I`d love to call up and have a conversation about her financial affairs and see if we can be helpful.

PORTER: See if you can find a way for her to live on less than the minimum that I`ve described.

DIMON: Just be helpful.

PORTER: Well, I appreciate your desire to be helpful but what I`d like you to do is provide a way for families to make ends meet.


MOHYELDIN: Katie Porter is among our guests on THE LAST WORD Holiday Special, tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. All right, that`s it for tonight`s show. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts right now.