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Trump backpedals. TRANSCRIPT: 1/13/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Nicole Perlroth, Peter Welch, Michael Bennet, Adam Jentleson,Lauren Underwood

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.

And we have one of "The New York Times" reporters who broke that story tonight about -- 


O`DONNELL:  -- the Russians are at it again.

MADDOW:  The 2016 election hack was bad enough. The redux seems like it`s going to be a little bit darker.

O`DONNELL:  Yes, it`s just incredible to see. I mean, there was Donald Trump out in the driveway asking China to do this, asking Ukraine to do this. It turns out Russia was listening and who knows who else. So, that`s where we are tonight.

MADDOW:  Amazing stuff. Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Well, Nancy Pelosi will be meeting with Democratic members in the House tomorrow morning to discuss sending articles of impeachment to the Senate where Republican Senator Mitt Romney has become even more outspoken in his support for having witnesses testify in the Senate trial, especially John Bolton, and other Republicans are now coming forward saying they might support that. We`ll be joined tonight by presidential candidate and Democratic senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet, who will give us his view on what to expect in the Senate impeachment trial.

And on the eve of the next Democratic presidential debate, at the end this of hour, I`ll tell you what to expect in tomorrow night`s debate and explain why it will be as unsatisfying as these debates so frequently are. And the problem is not really the candidates. It`s the questions that completely ignore reality, especially when it comes to what has been the most contentious issue in the debates: health care. Because the political truth is, there is no real difference among the Democratic candidates on what they would actually be able to do about health care when they become president.

And that became very, very clear on this program when one of the leading presidential candidates said one simple sentence about health care, and it`s the only sentence that you have to hear in the health care debate, and you probably will not hear it tomorrow night. But you will hear it at the end of this hour.

Russia, if you`re listening. Russia, if you`re listening, so said presidential candidate Donald Trump when he was hoping that Russia could find emails that Donald Trump could use to attack his campaign opponent Hillary Clinton.

And Russia was listening. As the Mueller report tells us, immediately after Donald Trump said that, Russian agents were hacking away at the Democratic National Committee, and they eventually found what they were looking for, and the rest is Russian interference history in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the Electoral College, and it worked last time.

And according to breaking news from "The New York Times" tonight, Russia is doing it again. Russia has been listening again, listening to the impeachment investigation in the House of Representatives, which was focused on President Trump`s request that the Ukraine government investigate Joe Biden and Joe Biden`s son`s involvement in the Ukrainian gas company called Burisma.

"The New York Times" headline tonight is: Russian hacked Ukrainian gas company at center of impeachment. "The Times" reports, quote, the hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States.

Experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens, the same kind of information Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment. The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia`s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton`s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign.

This time, the president did publicly ask Russia to help his campaign, but he did ask Ukraine and he did ask China, and Russia definitely heard him make those requests.


REPORTER:  Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about investigating the Bidens after your phone call?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they would start a major investigation into the Bidens. And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.

So I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens.


O`DONNELL:  Every government in the world heard that. We don`t know how many of them did what Donald Trump wants them to do, but we do know who Vladimir Putin supports for president of the United States.


REPORTER:  Did you want President Trump to win the election, and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator):  Yes, I did. Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.


O`DONNELL:  A spokesperson for the Biden campaign said tonight, now we know that Vladimir Putin also sees Joe Biden as a threat. Any American president who had not repeatedly encouraged foreign interventions of this kind would immediately condemn this attack on the sovereignty of our elections.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Nicole Perlroth, cybersecurity reporter for "The New York Times", who`s one of the reporters who broke the story tonight.

Also joining us, Democratic Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

And Frank Figliuzzi is with us. He`s a former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence. He`s an MSNBC national security analyst.

And, Nicole, your breaking news report tonight has really dominated our coverage since it emerged. And I want to know how long have you been working on this story and how did you get at this information?

NICOLE PERLROTH, THE NEW YORK TIMES CYBERSECURITY REPORTER:  So we had a pretty big story about the state of the election, threats to the election last week, and we spent months putting that story together, but at the time that we printed it last week, there really wasn`t any concrete evidence that there was a clear breach or attack along the lines of what we saw in 2016.

As we were just about to go to print, I called up one of my sources at Area 1, which is a Silicon Valley company, and I just wanted to do some fact checking on the article, and he said, you know what, I think we`re looking at something pretty big. And he basically said that one of their researchers had seen this very concerted, very aggressive campaign in the last couple weeks of 2019 to get the credentials of some Ukrainian companies. But he hadn`t put two and two together.

And just as I was speaking to the CEO of Area 1, he said, we looked at their targets and they all had one thing in common. They`re all subsidiaries of Burisma.

So, over the weekend, we kept in touch, and as they did more forensic work, they determined that actually they had successfully phished these five or so Burisma subsidiaries. It looks like employees at Burisma had turned over their emails and passwords.

Now, separately my colleague, Matt Rosenberg, and I also determined from speaking to intelligence officials that there was a concerted effort by Russian spies in the analog world to try and infiltrate Burisma, to try to get similar information that Trump actually had been looking for.

O`DONNELL:  Do your sources indicate that this is the kind of attack -- and you describe it, really, as a bombardment by the Russian attackers into this cyber environment in Ukraine, but is this the kind of attack that the American government would know about?

PERLROTH:  We would hope so, but when I talked to people at DHS, they had no knowledge of the attack, which was pretty disconcerting.

O`DONNELL:  Let`s take a look at what Adam Schiff said to Rachel Maddow tonight about your reporting. Let`s listen to this.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  We`re going to start by finding out what our intel agencies know about this. I have to say, Rachel, I`m a business distressed to see this for the first time in a newspaper report. If the intel committee -- community is aware of this, that should have been brought to our attention by now. But I don`t find it surprising. I do find it deeply disturbing, and I would hope that maybe both parties can get out ahead of this, even if the president won`t, and condemn any Russian effort to influence the next election.


O`DONNELL:  Congressman Peter Welch, you`re a member of the Intelligence Committee. As you listen to Nicole, I know you read her reporting tonight, but as you listen to her describe this, does this sound like the kind of information that in the normal course of events your committee would at least been briefed on?

REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT):  It absolutely would. I mean, it goes to the core of the democratic society`s obligation to make your vote count. And if you remember, Director Mueller, when he was testifying about this, said he feared that outside interference, particularly Russian, would be the new normal. And we focused on Russia`s preference for Trump over any Democratic candidate, but there is something that`s actually more important.

What Russia is about is sowing discord. So Americans can`t have their own conversation and debate about who they want to be their president. They put out this false information and get us in these false debates. So there should be some common ground here, whether it`s the mayor of the city or a president of the United States, has the obligation to make certain that it`s Americans or the people in that city who make that decision, free of interference from foreign involvement.

O`DONNELL:  And, Frank Figliuzzi, "The Times" -- Nicole reports that cyberattacks are accompanied by more traditional cyber techniques so it`s a complementary effort. I want to get your assessment having read this report of the totality of it and what the Russians are up to.

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST:  Yes, make no mistake. This is a full-on attack on our 2020 elections. This should surprise no one. We were told this was going to happen, and it`s playing out.

And let me expand on something the congressman said about the Russia intention of sowing discord and sending a message. The message here is they can do this at will and they don`t expect any pushback or sanctions because of it.

Why am I saying that? They use the same technique, the same signature as they did in 2016. If they wanted to pretend to be the Iranians or the North Koreans, or as the president says, a 400-pound guy sitting in his bed, they could easily have done that. But instead they used the same Russian signature easily attributed to the GRU, and that`s telling us we`re in charge, you`re not, we don`t expect any repercussions from doing this.

O`DONNELL:  So, Frank, let me just under line this point. Are you saying that the Russians, realizing at some point this would probably be discovered, actually wanted to be clear that it is the Russians who are doing it?

FIGLIUZZI:  I`m saying that they have the full capability to mask attribution back at them, right? And they chose not to mask who they were. So that`s a burglar who is doing it in broad daylight wearing no disguise. And that`s what they chose to do.

What does that tell me? They don`t care. They don`t care because they`re not afraid of anything happening to them because of it.

O`DONNELL:  And, Nicole, is it also -- do any of the analysts you spoke to, did they have a reading on why the Russians didn`t work harder to kind of cover their fingerprints here?

PERLROTH:  I think they did just enough to get in. So this is a group, the private security community calls them Fancy Bear. The intelligence community knows they`re part of Russia`s main intelligence directorate, and they`re known for doing these phishing attacks. And they do just enough to get inside. In this case they did just enough and it worked.

And perhaps because they were targeting a group in Ukraine, they felt like they didn`t necessarily need to mask their moves as well as they would if they were targeting a similar company or government agency in the United States. But in this case, they used the same servers to get in, they used the same Internet service provider systems, they used the same malicious, technical infrastructure, and just like Frank was saying, they didn`t bother to mask their moves anymore because they knew there were going to be few repercussions.

O`DONNELL:  And, Congressman Welch, they paid no price for this in 2016, so when you see how kind of lazy they are in the way they`re going about it this year, it almost is, in their case, a kind of acknowledgment that they paid no price for this.

WELCH:  Well, it is, and, you know, the heart of our democracy is the vote and the integrity of the vote, and that we decide who our president is. We have red lines in national security. If a country does X, we might retaliate with force. We should have red lines when it comes to outside forces interfering in the right of every American to have their say count.

I think we have to be much more aggressive in our response, because from my perspective, Russia has crossed a red line because they`re explicitly, deliberately, insistently interfering in our election to try to sow discord in this country.

O`DONNELL:  Frank, if the American government wanted to help Ukraine fend off an attack like this, what could the American government do?

FIGLIUZZI:  Well, we should be sending our experts from FBI, DHS and the intelligence community over there to help track down the attribution, find out exactly what`s been taken.

Let`s not forget, the Russians also have the capability of planting data inside a server or network. So if they didn`t find what they wanted, they have the capability of planting it. We need to be able to get to the bottom of this. What`s our equity in it, even though there might not be a U.S. law involved because we have a foreign victim and a foreign actor? The equity is our election. This is about who`s going to determine the next president of the United States, whether it`s the U.S. voters, or whether it`s the Russia GRU. That should bother everybody.

O`DONNELL:  And, Nicole, I saw you nodding at the notion of the Russians can also plant information there as Frank put, make it look like it was real Ukrainian information. So they can assert disinformation and then discover it and pretend this is real evidence.

PERLROTH:  That`s right. I was nodding because that is something that intelligence officials told me in 2016 they were really worried about, that perhaps in addition to leaking all the data that they leaked from Podesta`s email, et cetera, that they might insert some fake materials, and then we`re going to would basically leave it to the American people to decide which of these documents and emails are real and which were fake.

And there was no evidence they did that last time around, but that`s something Russian actors have done in the past. And if they don`t find what they`re looking for in Burisma`s systems, they can very well do that this time around. And all it would have to be is one email, one document, and it would play out in headlines all over the world.

So, it`s a huge thing, and it`s something I personally am very worried about.

O`DONNELL:  Nicole Perlroth, thank you very much for joining us at the end of this busy day for you with your breaking news report in "The New York Times." 

Congressman Peter Welch, thank you for joining us.

Frank Figliuzzi, thank you for your guidance on this subject, really appreciate it.

And when we come back, Senator Michael Bennet will soon be a juror in the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump. We`ll get his reaction to this breaking news on the Russian cyberattack on Ukraine after this break.



SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Every single Western democracy is being attacked by Russia. If you talk to any ambassador from any country in Europe, they will tell you that Russia is supporting far right wing parties in their countries that are seeking to destabilize the democracies themselves. That`s what`s at stake here, and the world needs an American president who will stand up to that, not endorse it, not ask for the Russians` help.


O`DONNELL:  That was presidential candidate, Senator Michael Bennet, on this program last year after Donald Trump told George Stephanopoulos on ABC on video that he would accept information on his campaign opponent from a foreign government. And when George Stephanopoulos called that interference in our election, Donald Trump said, quote, it`s not interference. They have information. I think I`ll take it.

With "The New York Times" reporting tonight that Russian government agents have mounted a cyberattack on Ukraine trying to find information on Joe Biden, I am pleased to welcome back to this program, Colorado`s Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, who is now a candidate for president. He`s a member of the Intelligence Committee and the Finance Committee in the Senate. He will be a juror in the impeachment trial of President Trump.

I want to get your reaction to this breaking news in the "New York Times" tonight. The Russians are at it again, this time through Ukraine, trying to find emails, or as we just heard from the reporter, possibly creating fake emails about Joe Biden and Joe Biden`s son. That they will stick in the Ukraine server and then pretend they found evidence.

BENNET:  I never thought I would say this on your program, but nothing could surprise me less than this.

O`DONNELL:  Well, that`s what you said the last time you were here. Yes.

BENNET:  Yes, it`s absolutely incredible. I mean, the president has kind of waved the flag and said, come to my rescue, and if you can do an investigation, do an investigation. And at a time an older president would send someone over to help the Ukrainians to figure out what the Russians were doing, we are hamstringed because we have a president who thinks he`s benefitting politically from what the Russians are doing.

O`DONNELL:  Yes. We just heard from Frank Figliuzzi, an expert on this, that, of course, a real version of this government would have sent people to Ukraine to help them defend against this because they would know this kind of thing was coming.

I`m going to ask you something I think we know the answer to, because chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, told Rachel Maddow he knew about this until he read it in "The New York Times". Chuck Schumer just told Rachel he knew nothing about it until he read in "The New York Times."  You`re a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. I assume you knew nothing about it?

BENNET:  I knew nothing about it until I read in "The New York Times".

O`DONNELL:  And this is the kind of thing that intelligence committees expect to hear about if the American government has picked up this information.

BENNET:  This is, but we`re not living in an ordinary time, and we`re not living with an ordinary government and it is all the more reason that`s the free press is so important today. I mean, even now as we go into this impeachment trial, we`ve learned lots of things since the House had trial, that is now new to the Senate, and now, we`re going to have a debate in the Senate about what information is going to come forward. Some of that also is from "The New York Times" -- 

O`DONNELL:  Uh-huh.

BENNET:  -- and other national newspapers.

So, I do think it`s important to remember that the men and women of our intelligence agencies are trying to do their job, notwithstanding the fact that we have a president in complete denial or who, you know, wants to be an accessory to whatever Russia is doing there, and that gives me some hope that we`re going to be OK in the end. But we really do need to have people over in Ukraine right now, not just to protect Ukraine, but to protect ourselves in all of Europe.

Western Europe knows, you know, we have no leadership here that has their back, and they`re deeply worried about that because they can`t protect themselves.

O`DONNELL:  The Senate now, we`re hearing -- Mitt Romney has now said it again. He said it last week, now he`s saying it again. He wants to hear from John Bolton. He`s pretty clear about this. Mitt Romney is clearly a vote for a witness or probably witnesses, plural. I`ve heard him say it as witnesses, plural.

There`s reporting tonight indicating there could be several more, maybe a half dozen, as many as a half dozen, two more than you need, Republican votes to get witnesses into this trial.

What do you think is going to happen at (INAUDIBLE)?

BENNET:  I think the pressure is going to be very intense, and I think you`re going to see people say we should hear those witnesses. I`ve seen it, Lawrence, in the Senate where people will sit there at the hearing and then something will catch their attention, and they`ll say, I want to know more about that. Can you tell me more about that?

O`DONNELL:  Did you mean Republicans?

BENNET:  Yes, I do mean Republicans. I think it could happen here.

I`m out obviously all over Iowa and New Hampshire, and what I`m hearing from people is an intense desire to have witnesses and to have the documents be part of this trial. In fact, people say, how can you call it a trial if you don`t have witnesses and you don`t have documents?

And I hope the American people will pay attention to every single minute of this thing and will demand that -- whether they think Donald Trump in the end did anything wrong, that they`ll demand that we create a record here because that`s what history demands. And that`s what the public, I think, really wants.

O`DONNELL:  Let me give you a little presidential campaign coverage tonight. James Carville, you picked up the James Carville endorsement.

He said, Senator Bennet is the opposite of Trump and is the best Democrat to take him on and Senator Bennet would be the best president of the United States, which is why I endorse his campaign. Michael Bennet will surprise people.

And it will take a big surprise for you to move up. I mean, here`s Cory Booker dropping out today, and he`s polling ahead of you in the polls.

What does James Carville know and what do you know that we can`t see?

BENNET:  Well, I`m seeing real movement in New Hampshire and some momentum in New Hampshire. I think one of the things James Carville saw was my going out doing 50 town halls after I had already done 33 town halls just trying to dig it out in New Hampshire. I`m flattered that he would say I`m the opposite of Donald Trump. I see it that way myself.

If we think we need somebody like Trump to be Trump, I`m obviously not the candidate. But if we think somebody --

O`DONNELL:  Just a second. The Democrats don`t have a candidate who is like Trump, do they? Aren`t you all opposite of Trump?

BENNET:  Yes.  Well, I think we certainly can`t out-Trump, I guess is the point I would make, and if we`re looking at 330 million Americans who`s the opposite, I think I fit that bill, you know? 

So, I`m proud to have James` endorsement. As you know, he led a campaign that actually knocked off the last sitting Republican president, and that`s what we have to do again. So we`re -- I think we are going to surprise some people, and we`d love to have the help. Anyone who wants to help knock doors in New Hampshire, we`ll be there.

O`DONNELL:  So your campaign really depends on being on the ground in New Hampshire. You have an impeachment trial coming up that could run six days a week.

BENNET:  Right.

O`DONNELL:  That`s going to get in the way.

BENNET:  It will get in the way but that -- there`s nothing -- that`s out of my hands. We have to -- I`ve got to do my constitutional responsibility there. And when I`m not there, I`ll be haunting people`s doorways and small businesses and living rooms.

O`DONNELL:  You charming their doorways.

BENNET:  Charming their doorways. That`s what I`m going to do unto New Hampshire.

O`DONNELL:  Senator Bennet, thank you very much for joining us again.

BENNET:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Joining us again tonight.  Really appreciate it.

BENNET:  Thanks a lot.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, it appears Speaker Pelosi`s strategy on holding on to those impeachment articles has worked.


O`DONNELL: The case will not be dismissed. Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted that he wanted Republican Senators to vote to dismiss the Articles of Impeachment and not put the President on trial.

And today NBC News is reporting that Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander will not vote to dismiss the Articles of Impeachment and that means Republican Senator Susan Collins will not vote to dismiss the Articles of Impeachment.

And CBS News is reporting that the Trump defense team in the White House now expects that the Democrats will have enough Republican votes to block any attempt to dismiss the case and that the Democrats will have enough Republican votes to call witnesses.

Senior White House officials told CBS News quote, "They increasingly believe that at least four Republicans, and likely more, will vote to call witnesses. In addition to Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and possibly Cory Gardner of Colorado. The White House also views Rand Paul of Kentucky as a wild card, and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as an institutionalist, who might vote to call witnesses" As one official put.

If that reporting proves to be true, that means that Nancy Pelosi strategy of holding the Articles of Impeachment has worked. It has allowed enough time for the pressure to build on enough Republican Senators to support calling witnesses in the trial. Witnesses who refused to testify in the House investigation like former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton, who famously referred to what President Trump was trying to do with Ukraine as a "drug deal," according to one of John Bolton staff who did testify in the House investigation.

Tomorrow morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet with House Democrats to discuss sending the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate and choosing House managers to accompany those Articles of Impeachment to the Senate and conduct that trial. Those articles could be sent to the Senate this week, and that means that the Senate impeachment trial could begin next week.

And after this break, you`ll hear what the Democratic Senate leader told Rachel about what has changed in the Senate in the last few days.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Our ability to responsibly engage with this crisis as informed citizens is now dependent on the fourth estate. We are going to need for this crisis in a way we`ve never quite needed before, we are going to need reporters on the ground, including in dangerous places, and good journalism, and American citizens respecting good journalism standing up for it, because we are going to need to all be actively engaged citizens, paying close attention.




SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): The case for witnesses and documents, which I began making three weeks ago, is now gaining momentum in the Senate. It`s gaining momentum throughout the country and I am more hopeful than ever, that we can actually get a fair trial. We haven`t overreached--


O`DONNELL: Joining our impeachment trial discussion now are Ruth Marcus, Deputy Editorial Page Editor and Columnist at "The Washington Post." She`s also an MSNBC Contributor; and Adam Jentleson, Former Deputy Chief of Staff to Senator Harry Reid. He is the Director of Public Affairs for "Democracy Forward" and a "GQ Magazine" columnist.

And Ruth you`re hearing something different now from Chuck Schumer, from other Democratic Senators who were saying - were sounding pretty pessimistic about this. Chuck Schumer said that things have changed in the last few days in the Senate. And here`s reporting tonight from CBS saying, the White House has given up. The White House expects they won`t be able to stop Republican Senators from voting for witnesses.

RUTH MARCUS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Things are changing. But it remains to be seen how far they`re changing, what witnesses will be get. We`ve been focused so much on national - and appropriately so, on a hearing from National Security Advisor John Bolton, since he said he would be willing to testify if subpoenaed by the Senate.

But there are obviously, other witnesses who have the kind of firsthand knowledge that the White House, and its allies have been telling us has - was missing from the House case, because they wouldn`t allow those witnesses to testify.

And also, Senator Schumer mentioned something else, which I think is really important and perhaps as important, which is the availability of documents. The White House has refused and the administration has refused to turn over relevant documents.

That`s been a piece of the case that Senator Schumer has been making and that is also something that the senators, as they get more serious and more responsible about exercising their constitutional authority here, should also be looking for.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Senator Mitt Romney said today, which is just a restatement of what he`s been saying for a few days now. Let`s listen to this.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I`ve spoken with several of my colleagues. I`ve let Senator Collins know where I stand, which is that I support the Clinton impeachment model, which is a vote on witnesses later. But as to which witnesses I`d want to hear from and so forth, that`s something which I`m open till to until after the opening arguments.

REPORTER: --Including John Bolton?

ROMNEY: Pardon.

REPORTER: --Including John Bolton?

ROMNEY: Including John Bolton, yes. Yes, I mean, he`s someone who I would like to hear from and presumably I get the chance to vote for that after the opening arguments.


O`DONNELL: So John Bolton is someone he would like to hear from. And, Adam, I think, in many ways, the most important line that I just heard Senator Romney say is that first sentence, I`ve spoken with several of my colleagues, including Senator Susan Collins. And the reason he has spoken with several of his colleagues is that Nancy Pelosi gave him time to speak with several of his colleagues so that he doesn`t have to do this alone.

ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO SEN. HARRY REID: Yes, that`s right. I think what this is showing - what we`re seeing this week is that Speaker Pelosi`s strategy of holding the articles. There are some who doubted it initially, but I think she`s proven that she really knew what she was doing, then - in holding those and allowing time for pressure to build.

I also want to credit Senator Schumer here. One of the things we`re not talking about, because it`s not news, is the Democrats are staying completely united. There is no news about Democrats breaking away. You`ve got senators Doug Jones, Senator Manchin, from deep red states, holding the same line as their colleagues from deep blue states.

There`s just been complete democratic unity. And I think the combination of those two things that Speaker Pelosi holding the articles for as long as she did, allowing pressure to build and Senate Democrats remaining unified has been a very powerful combination.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Ruth, I`m glad Adam mentioned the Senate Democrats unified, because I, for one, have completely overlooked it. And it is - if you look back on as the length of time we`ve been looking at the United States Senate, Democrats unified is kind of a peculiar condition for them.

MARCUS: Well, we will see as the Senate trial unfolds how long that unity stays as well, because as you know, unity and Democrats don`t always go together in the same sentence. But it is interesting that so far, we have not heard any public peeps of dissent or questioning about the importance of going ahead with the trial from any of the Senate Democrats who are in a different kind of state than most Democrats are.

O`DONNELL: And, Adam, if we get to John Bolton`s testimony in the United States Senate. I mean, here`s someone who`s going to have to explain what he meant when he called it a drug deal that the President was up to with Ukraine. This clearly could be the most powerful testimony that we have heard so far in this entire investigation?

JENTLESON: That`s right. I mean, Ambassador Bolton has been a key player in all of this. Some of the previous testimony that the House heard, including from Fiona Hill, raised a lot of questions about his involvement that he could definitely provide some clear answers to. That would increase our understanding of what happened.

So having him come to testify would be a really big deal. It would provide wall-to-wall news coverage. It would be something new instead of just hearing the same arguments, which is what a lot of people are have been expecting to happen in the Senate, so that would be a really big deal. Massive coverage and potentially some very big new revelations.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to leave it there for tonight, Ruth Marcus, Adam Jentleson, thank you both for joining our discussion. Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, Donald Trump is lying about health care again, that`s no surprise. This time he`s claiming to be the protector of people with pre-existing conditions after trying to completely repeal the law that protects people with pre-existing conditions.

Freshman Congresswoman Lauren Underwood will join us next to dismantle Donald Trump`s lies about health care. Congresswoman Underwood is for me also a hero, because she is a nurse. That`s next


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is in full panic mode on health care, so he is telling some of his greatest lies ever about health care, claiming to be the protector of insurance, health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, when in fact, Donald Trump has tried repeatedly and failed to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is the only law that provides protection for people with pre-existing conditions.

Today, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg tweeted that, if the President wants to protect people with pre-existing conditions, he should tell the Trump Justice Department to stop trying to get the United States Supreme Court to completely destroy the Affordable Care Act by finding it unconstitutional.

Attorney General John William Barr recognizes how much trouble Donald Trump is in on health care, and so the most political Attorney General of our time is trying to delay the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act until after the presidential election.

Joining our discussion now is freshman Democratic Congressman Lauren Underwood of Illinois. She`s a registered nurse who served as a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration.

Congresswoman Underwood, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I want to begin by noting for the audience that you won a district that President Trump won, and so you`ve competed in kind of difficult territory.

But once again, polls are showing health care, number one issue - the number one issue in the presidential campaign, and that must have something to do with why Donald Trump suddenly wants to try to tell people he`s the protector of people with pre-existing conditions.

REP. LAUREN UNDERWOOD (D-IL): That`s right. Health care remains the number one issue fueled by an issue with affordability. Premium prices are too high, prescription drug prices are too high, and yet so many Americans - millions of Americans are facing uncertainty tonight as a result of this lawsuit.

You know, the facts are clear, Lawrence. That since President Trump has been in office, millions of Americans have lost their health care coverage. Over 7 million adults and 425,000 children have lost their coverage since this administration began.

And so to have a President speaking so callously about protecting coverage for people who rely on the on the Affordable Care Act for their care, these critical protections like pre-existing condition coverage, ensuring that their kids can remain on their parent`s plan until age 26. These are things that families all across my Northern Illinois district and across our country are counting on.

O`DONNELL: And pre-existing conditions within the polling about health care, protection for people with pre-existing conditions is one of the highest, if not the highest, positive polling accomplishment of Obamacare, of the Affordable Care Act, and that`s why Donald Trump wants to pull that that phrase.

He only knows the words pre-existing. He doesn`t even always say pre- existing conditions. He just says, we`ll take care of pre-existing. He`s clinging to that term because he knows how well it polls.

UNDERWOOD: Well, it`s an empty promise at this point. I mean, the record is very clear that the Republican controlled Congress advanced legislation in 2017 to take away health care coverage from 23 million Americans.

And if this lawsuit, the Texas vs U.S. lawsuit is successful, 20 million people will lose their coverage. And so, however, phrase, the President - whatever phrase the President wants to use, whether it`s pre-existing or pre-existing conditions, or ACA or anything like that, we know that he lacks credibility on this issue.

And I really just urge him to put Twitter down, put the phone down and focus on protecting Americans and our health care coverage, because that is what everyone cares about.

O`DONNELL: And we see Attorney General Barr in this extraordinary representation to the court saying, slow down, there`s no need to reach any ruling on this case anytime soon. Because Attorney General Barr, who clearly, very much wants to completely knock out the Affordable Care Act, doesn`t want to do it before the election, because he knows he doesn`t want to submit that to voters.

UNDERWOOD: Well, it`s certainly not a positive report card, that`s for sure. And so, again, this repeal and replace effort that the Republicans have been attempting since 2010, has failed. It has failed in the election, it has failed in the legislature and we are hoping that it will fail in the courts.

That is why House Democrats in our very first day in office, took a vote to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, to defend these critical protections like pre-existing conditions. And we`re doing the work to lower health care costs that the American people have asked for.

Just last month, we passed the historic bill to lower prescription drug prices. I`ve got my own legislation to lower premium prices, and we are hard at work fighting for these families. And so, the Attorney General, he sees the writing on the wall, and they`re going to try every trick that they have in their book.

But I don`t think that they`re going to be successful, because the American people know that there is one group of people that is fighting for their health care costs, and it is House Democrats. We are fighting for the people.

O`DONNELL: Well, to win your district, some people who voted for Donald Trump had to vote for you. Do you find that Trump voters understand where Donald Trump is on this issue versus where the Democrats are on this issue?

UNDERWOOD: They want to 100 percent understand. And my community folks talk to me every day about how expensive their health care is, how they`re hoping that we can be successful in this lawsuit.

Just this weekend, I was talking with a young woman who has bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder and she was sharing with me how critical her pre-existing condition protections have been to her long term treatment.

We were unveiling a new bill to offer three free mental health care visits and three free primary care visits to all Americans with private insurance coverage in an effort to expand access to care. I mean, I think that people understand that there`s one group that has the creative solutions to address the complexities and the challenges in our health care system today.

And regardless of party, by showing up and talking to people and their families about these deeply rooted issues that are sources of anxiety, vulnerability, and uncertainty, given the high price of health care, is so very important.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

UNDERWOOD: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And when we come back, tomorrow night`s presidential debate will probably be as frustrating for you to watch as most of them are. But the things that are most maddening about these debates are actually the questions that presume the candidates are running for dictator, not president. More on that after this break.


O`DONNELL: Tomorrow night you will be treated to another Democratic presidential candidates` debate with only six candidates debating this time. The questions will most likely all contain the false concept of President as dictator.

The candidates will be asked what they will do to change our health care system, for example, as if it`s completely up to them, and not the Congress. The only power the President actually has is to sign or veto whatever health care legislation Congress passes - if Congress is capable of passing anything.

So, I, for one, believe that the best way to ask questions about governing policies that are not completely within the control of the President, is to ask veto questions. What would you veto, because the veto question can often give you a much better picture of what the reality of that candidate`s presidency might be.


O`DONNELL: Say you`re President, Amy Klobuchar is still a Senator. Amy Klobuchar pushes through a modest bill that includes a public option for Obamacare, no phase in, no direction toward Medicare for All at all, would you veto it?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I will - I will sign anything that helps and I`ll keep fighting for more ways to help, because I think that`s the right way to do it.

O`DONNELL: You`re opposed to Medicare for All. But if you are President, and Senator Bernie Sanders manages to push Medicare for All through Congress, would you veto that?



O`DONNELL: That is political reality. The Medicare for All candidate says she`ll sign anything that helps. The opponent of Medicare for All says he would not veto Medicare for All if Senator Sanders pulled off the miracle of getting Medicare for All through the Congress, and it would be a miracle, because Nancy Pelosi is not a supporter of Medicare for All. So that makes it, for the moment, impossible in the House of Representatives.

And the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare has exactly one supporter of Medicare for All, and it takes 15 votes to get a Medicare bill out of that Senate committee.

The political reality is the next Democratic President, whoever it is, will sign whatever health care legislation the Congress is capable of passing, if any. President Bernie Sanders would sign a minor strengthening of Obamacare, if that`s the best that the Congress can do.

And then President Sanders would publicly ask the Congress to go back to work on Medicare for All and the Democratic leadership in Congress would publicly pretend that they were going to do that, and that would be the end of the health care story.

And so when you recognize the fundamental, obvious truth, that the next Democratic President will sign whatever health care legend a Democratic Congress can pass, if any, then there really isn`t any significant difference among the candidates on that subject, because the only power they are ever going to have on health care legislation is the power to sign or veto what Nancy Pelosi passes in the House, and what squeaks through the Senate, if anything.

That`s true of many other issues that the candidates will debating - that will be debating like taxation. And that means that much of the debate will be, as usual, an unrealistic, argumentative presentation of legislative hopes and dreams.

If all the candidates will just tell that simple truth that Elizabeth Warren told us on this program, the health care section of the debate would be much shorter and much more realistic. I`ll sign anything that helps. That is the real presidential answer, and that is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.