THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
April 23, 2013
Guests: Cameron West, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sam Stein, Karen Finney
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Tonight, the Boston marathon bombing
suspect continues to tell his story, but his mother is telling a very
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Police have learned of a possible motive
in the Boston marathon bombing.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Why did they do it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are learning about a motive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dzhokhar reportedly told investigators that he and
his brother acted alone.
WAGNER: The attack was fueled by religious fervor.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: None of it has been confirmed outside of
what he says.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Dzhokhar was read his Miranda rights in a brief
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He nodded most of his answers.
TODD: Nodded four times to questions but spoke just one word.
WILLIAMS: When asked if he could afford a lawyer, he spoke the word
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are still a lot of unanswered questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The House today will get a classified briefing.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: A Senate committee will question the FBI.
MITCHELL: The FBI faces questions.
WAGNER: There are limits on what can be done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are ways in which you could further enable
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are all issues that are going to be
TODD: I want to get a sequester very quickly in here.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A series of automatic,
severe budget cuts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dealing the impact of across-the-board sequester
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: What does it mean for the overall
OBAMA: FBI agents will be furloughed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sequester was never intended to become law.
OBAMA: Changes like this affect our ability to respond to threats.
HALL: This is a result of the sequester.
OBAMA: These cuts are not smart. They are not fair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This touches, you know, almost every big issue
going on in Washington now.
OBAMA: Congress has to act.
TODD: President Obama`s early second term domestic agenda.
JANSING: What does it mean for the overall debate?
TODD: Gun control, the budget and immigration reform.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama is inviting the 20 female senators
over for dinner tonight.
MITCHELL: All of the women senators over for dinner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In hopes of creating a better working relationship
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you want to create a bipartisan agenda.
TODD: No real signs of progress anywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A great place to start is with the women
O`DONNELL: In the Boston bombing investigation, NBC News has learned
that the FBI is increasingly confident, their words, increasingly confident
that the two suspects acted alone.
NBC`s Pete Williams reports that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told
investigators that he and his brother were motivated by religious fervor
and their reaction to the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The suspect`s condition was upgraded from fair -- from serious to fair
today, according to the U.S. attorney`s office in Boston.
As you know, he was found bleeding in a boat in a driveway in
Watertown just outside Boston. The man who discovered him in that boat,
David Henneberry, spoke with Ed Harding of Boston`s ABC station WCVB today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HENNEBERRY, BOAT OWNER: I know I took three steps up the
ladder. I don`t remember stepping down off the ladder. I think I just --
this hits you more afterwards and you think, my God. We probably slept
last night. This guy could be -- I don`t know, it`s surreal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The suspect`s two sisters, Ailina and Bella Tsarnaev
released this statement today that did not include one word of defense of
"Our hearts go out to the victims of last week`s bombing. It saddens
us to see so many innocent people hurt after such a callous act. As a
family, we are absolutely devastated by the sense of loss and sorrow this
has caused. We don`t have any answers, but we look forward to a thorough
investigation and hope to lea more. We ask the media to respect our
privacy during this difficult time."
But their mother continues to refuse to believe that her sons could
have done anything wrong. NBC`s British partner ITN spoke with the
suspects` mother by phone.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MOTHER: I`m sure my two boys are not responsible for this.
REPORTER: You think they were there just as spectators, as innocent
MOTHER: Of course. Well, last year they went, too.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The suspects` mother then told CNN, "Their protector is
God, who is Allah, the only one Allah, OK? If they`re going to kill him, I
don`t care. My oldest one has been killed and I don`t care. I don`t care
if my youngest one is going to be killed today. I want the world to hear
this, and I don`t care if I am going to get killed, too, OK? And I will
say Allahu Akbar. That`s what I`m going to say."
"The Wall Street Journal" reports tonight that the older brother
bought two large pyrotechnics devices in February from a New Hampshire
store called Phantom Fireworks. The company`s vice president, William
Weimer, says Tsarnaev purchased two Lock and Load reloadable mortar kits at
the company`s Seabrook, New Hampshire, store, near the Massachusetts
border. Each kit contains a tube and 24 shells. Tsarnaev paid $194 cash
or the kits.
NBC`s Michael Isikoff reports that a preliminary examination of these
cell phones and computers used by the Tsarnaev brothers has found no
indication yet of any accomplices. Investigators say they are now trying
to determine whether the older brother obtained money from family members,
friends or other sources.
A spokesman for the mosque the brothers attended in Cambridge tells
NBC News, FBI agents have been questioning members and that the mosque has
provided the names of at least three members who saw Tamerlan disrupt
services at the mosque. The most recent was on Martin Luther King Day. He
called a speaker a non-believer and a hypocrite because he compared Martin
Luther King to the Prophet Muhammad.
Leaders of the congregation told him he should not come back if he was
going to disrupt services. He did return in the last month but didn`t
cause any more problems.
Joining me now is NBC New terrorism analyst Michael Leiter, former
director of the National Counterterrorism Center under Presidents Bush and
Obama, and MSNBC`s Joy Reid.
Michael, what do you make o the totality of the evidence as it exists
MICHAEL LEITER, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: Lawrence, it`s quite
clear that the FBI is developing incredibly strong case here. And what
we`re seeing, although obviously we can`t say for sure yet, it`s almost
certain that the older brother was the first who was radicalized, inspired
by the same messages that has inspired other home-grown extremists and
followers of al Qaeda. An extremist Sunni Islamic ideology, which is a
warping of a very peaceful Muslim faith, and drove them ultimately to view
themselves being at war with the United States and thus targeting innocent
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, I want to get your reaction to everything that`s
unfolded so far.
JOY REID, THE GRIO: Yes, I think the mother`s statements are pretty
incredible. I mean, as we`re reading the news reports, she wasn`t
necessarily the person directly parenting these young men. She was in
another country, and so, the influence of the suspect who is still alive
was really his brother who seems to be the first to be radicalized.
But it is pretty frightening I think that we tend to want this to be
sort of a terrorist cell, some bigger conspiracy, something a lot less
frightening than just two otherwise average young men living in the
community, raised in the community and then becoming radicalized just of
their own volition and deciding to do something so horrific really in their
own community. So, it`s actually, in a lot of ways, more disturbing.
O`DONNELL: Michael, what do you make of the difference in the
reactions from their sisters and their mother? Their sisters` statement
very clearly, they`re not making any kind of defensive comment about their
brothers. They seem to be watching what`s developed in television news and
accepting kind of the obvious facts of the case so far.
LEITER: Lawrence, I would say it is true that the sisters are
probably closer to this than the mother who is overseas, and the father who
is overseas. But I have to admit that I have a bit of sympathy -- I had a
lot of sympathy for the entire family. And, you know, any mother or father
who is faced with this, I don`t really think that these are especially
useful witnesses as to what their child did or did not do and why they did
or did not do it.
When I think you`re talking about so much grief and confusion that,
again, these are not the witnesses to whom I would turn for factual
evidence in a case.
O`DONNELL: Joy, the fireworks stuff, this stuff is legal in New
Hampshire, it`s illegal in Massachusetts. It`s very common there. You
drive up over the New Hampshire border, you grab this stuff, and you bring
And the question is, is this where they got the totality of the
gunpowder that they used for this bomb making? But the different state
laws making different things easier to obtain here than there are part of
what this story is about.
REID: Yes, and the difficulty of tracking. You know, you talked on
the show about the tagging issue and not being able necessarily trace where
gunpowder comes from and just the mundane items that they were able to put
together, apparently, just by going on line and figuring out how to make
such deadly destructive weapons.
They didn`t have to obtain sophisticated equipment. A lot of this was
stuff that was relatively easy to obtain. I think that`s another issue we
have to look at.
But as you said, we have disparate state laws. It`s very difficult to
police something when each state makes its own laws.
O`DONNELL: Michael, just the probabilities involved. Based on
everything you`ve seen, the devices they`ve used, the story that we learned
how to do this on the Internet. We were kind of inspired by some of these
Web sites we`ve gone to with extremist, Islamic clerics who are on them and
Is there anything you`ve heard developed from the suspect where you
say, oh, no, that doesn`t sound possible?
LEITER: This is actually a fairly typical story of homegrown
extremists, in my experience. We`ve had a history of homegrown extremists
in the United States having pretty extensive ties here in the United
States. Of course, the Ft. Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan, who was a major in
the Army; the Times Square bomber married two kids and MBA.
So, the basic profile of these two is not really inconsistent with
what we`ve seen.
And to your point about the Internet, almost every home-grown al
Qaeda-inspired extremist that we`ve seen in the United States over the past
five to six years has really been affected quite significantly by English-
speaking extremist preachers online. The most notable one is Anwar al-
Awlaki, but there are others in the world, and learning how to build the
bombs, kind of being attractive to this virulent ideology which so skews
Islam is relatively common.
And I think magazines put out by organizations like al Qaeda in the
Arabian Peninsula, a magazine known as "Inspire" and other places you can
learn to make these bombs, this really is the path that many homegrown
extremists have taken and, unfortunately, we`ve seen it again, I would
O`DONNELL: And, Joy, today, the other motivational element added to
the mix was the American invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq.
REID: Right. And we also learned that the older brother was a
devotee of the Alex Jones Web site and conspiracy theory, Infowars. So you
have this convention of sort of radical ideology, increasing religiosity,
but also buying into a lot of conspiracy theories, 9/11 trutherism
apparently was a part of the mix.
So, yes, it`s not just Web sites that are put out by terrorists
overseas, or, you know, terror organizations overseas. It`s also
conspiracy theorizing right here in the U.S. So, it is a pretty scary
O`DONNELL: Michael, at different points in our involvement in both
Afghanistan and Iraq, and other policy choices made since 9/11, there have
been concerns raised in Congress and raised by some observers, to what
extent is what we`re doing creating or provoking terrorism versus
What is your reaction to that calculation of suppress versus provoke
in what we`re looking at in this case?
LEITER: Lawrence, you`re absolutely right. This has been raised for
a long time. The first notable person who raised this was Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld who asked in a famous memo now, are we killing more terrorists
than we`re creating?
From my perspective, having looked at radicalization and try to
counter the message, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are very, very
commonly invoked in al Qaeda and al Qaeda-inspired propaganda to try to
recruit other individuals to the cause. Although that is undoubtedly true,
I have to say I think it is difficult to really connect any one individual
with these conflicts. There is no doubt, again, pictures, video of
civilians being killed and the like, this is exactly what al Qaeda uses to
help radicalize and bring people into the ideological fold.
But again, I think just pointing to Iraq or Afghanistan is a little
bit too simplistic, because generally these radicalization cases come from
a really dynamic mix of factors.
O`DONNELL: And, Joy, the pause that I would put over all of this is,
this all depends on you believing this suspect in this hospital bed, and I
for one am going to reserve judgment on everything he`s saying.
REID: Yes, and it`s in his interest to say that it was the older
brother, that it was the now deceased suspect who now cannot counter any of
his claims. It is very much in his interest as a legal matter to say that
he was following what the older brother was doing. So I think, yes, we
have to definitely take what he`s saying on that into account.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid and Michael Leiter, thank you both for joining me
REID: Thank you.
LEITER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, a Marine who lost his leg to an IED in
Afghanistan visits the survivors of the Boston bombings. He will join me
live to talk about what`s ahead for their recovery. What they can expect.
And later, the sequestration budget cuts are not just causing flight
delays. Now that air traffic controllers are being told to stay home, I
wonder how many FBI agents and federal prosecutors and assistant U.S.
attorneys are being told to take a day off.
O`DONNELL: Prosecutors are expected to file charges this week against
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the murder of 26-year-old MIT police officer Sean
Collier. Sean Collier`s funeral was held today at St. Patrick`s Church in
Stoneham, Massachusetts. Tomorrow, MIT will have a memorial service for
officer collier. It will be open to the MIT community but closed to the
public. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to attend.
No family suffered more in the Boston bombing than the Richard family
of Dorchester. Seven-year-old Jane Richard lost a leg. Her mother Denise
suffered a head injury, and her 8-year-old brother, Martin, was the
youngest person to die in the bombing.
The Richard family released this statement. The outpouring of love
and support over the last week has been tremendous. This has been the most
difficult week of our lives, and we appreciate that our friends and family
have given us space to grieve and heal.
A private funeral mass was celebrated this morning with immediate
family. We laid our son Martin to rest, and he is now at peace. We plan
to have a public memorial service in the coming weeks to allow friends and
loved ones from our community to join us for a celebration of Martin`s
O`DONNELL: Still very groggy from anesthesia and before he really
knew that he was a double amputee as a result of the Boston marathon
bombing, 24-year-old Jeffrey Bauman who had been waiting at the finish line
to cheer on his girlfriend wrote on a piece of paper bag, saw the guy,
looked right at me. And with that the FBI knew they had a witness who
could identify one of the bombers.
Today, Jeff Bauman visited 18-year-old Sidney Cochran (ph) at Boston
Medical Center. Sidney was hit by nearly fatal shrapnel and celebrated her
birthday today in a hospital bed beside her mother`s hospital bed. Her
mother Celeste lost both of her legs below the knee.
Joining me now, Captain Cameron West, who visited Sidney and her
Captain, tell me what you had to tell these victims of the Boston
CAPT. CAMERON WEST, VISITED BOMBING VICTIMS: Yes, sir, Mr. O`Donnell.
Number one, it`s an honor to be here in support of those that were injured,
and to tell you, we went up to Boston to try to motivate and show those
that were injured a little bit of what they might experience in the next
couple months and year or so with their amputation. And in turn we
actually were motivated by these people of all ages, and that is what
compelled us to get up there, and we were actually the ones that, you know,
got that out of the visit.
O`DONNELL: And so you as a marine were injured in combat and you
suffered amputation yourself, didn`t you?
WEST: Yes, sir. At the end of 2010, foot patrol in Afghanistan, I
was leading my platoon through the Sangin Valley, and my radio and myself
struck pressure plate IED and he actually saved my life and took the blunt
of the blast. And he was killed in action. And then, my injuries were
amputation right above the knee and extreme damage to my right forearm and
hand and loss of vision in my right eye.
O`DONNELL: Captain, your vision -- experience fascinates me, because
I was up in Boston the other day. I suggested to a friend of mine that I
have, like you, a friend who was a combat veteran, who lost a leg, and I
thought he might be able to go up there and talk to people about how life
does go on. I know he can dance and run and ski and all sorts of things.
Let`s take a look at the video of you visiting the hospital.
WEST: Yes, sir.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEST: Obviously, she got her pretty looks from you, huh? Great to
see you. You look good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. >
WEST: You look real good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
WEST: This doesn`t matter. This is just a change of scenery. It
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know.
WEST: I mean, Gabe here, he`s moving and running, he`s doing the
Paralympics. You may want to do that one day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what? My sister did her first, I don`t
know if you heard anything about our story. My sister did her first Boston
marathon this marathon.
I`ve lived in this area my whole life. I`ve always watched the
marathon. I`ve never actually come to the marathon to watch it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I was so proud of her. She wasn`t, you
know, a born runner like some people are. She worked so hard to do it, and
I was so proud to be there to cheer her on. And she, you know, was coming
around to Boylston Street. She didn`t actually get to finish the race
because of the bomb and everything.
And so after, I think it was -- was it Matthew? Her 11-year-old son
said, mom, are you going to run the race again next year? And she said,
yes, and then she was telling me the story. I always joked around like I`m
not super athletic. I like to work out and stuff, but running has never
been my thing because I always get the most horrible shin splints.
So I was like, hey, I don`t have shins anymore. I can do this.
WEST: That`s a good attitude right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Captain West, you know that they can have complete lives
ahead of them, but sitting there in those hospital beds today, I got to
say, I would have -- if I was in one of those beds, I would have trouble
WEST: Yes, sir. And it`s totally understandable. I mean, it`s just
the human factor of the whole situation. I mean, two years ago, I was in
their position, you know, and I thought that I wouldn`t be able to be who I
wanted to be, you know, later if life or right here in the present. And
that`s not the case at all.
With technology, support system and just drive and determination, I`ve
actually done more in the past two years that I`ve done, you know, in my
entire life just, you know, being in activities, skiing, snowboarding,
climbing mountains -- anything that`s unimaginable is definitely doable.
And that`s what we`re trying to do to these victims that had a great
loss of a leg or both legs, is just to show them that, hey, in a year, two
years from now, you`re going to be up running and gunning just like we are,
and you`re going to be where we are, and you`re going do to be supporting
somebody that just had a life-changing experience, and you`re going to be
And as I said, when we went there to be the inspiration, I mean, we
got more out of the trip than we could have ever given any of those that
O`DONNELL: I`m sure you did. Marine Captain Cameron West, thank you
very much for joining me tonight. But more importantly, thank you very
much for going to Boston and telling them your story.
WEST: It`s my honor.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
WEST: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the sequester cuts are finally hitting home,
and if you think it`s bad for air travel, wait until you hear what the
director of national intelligence says it will do to intelligence
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: Let me now be blunt
for you and for the American people. Sequestration forces the intelligence
community to reduce all intelligence activities and functions without
regard to impact on our mission. In my considered judgment as the nation`s
senior intelligence officer, sequestration jeopardizes our nation`s safety
and security, and this jeopardy will increase over time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was National Intelligence Director James Clapper last
week warning the Senate Armed Services Committee what the sequester could
do to national security. In the Spotlight tonight, sequestration budget
cuts hit home. Air travelers have faced long delays this week due to FAA
budget cuts that have reduced the number of air traffic controllers
available for work.
And as the FBI searched for the bomber suspects last week, National
Intelligence Director James Clapper was on Capitol Hill explaining how
nearly four billion dollars in cuts to the intelligence community could
affect the nation`s security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAPPER: Unlike more directly observable sequestration impacts like
shorter hours at the parks and or longer security lines at airport, the
degradation to intelligence will be insidious. It will be gradual and
almost invisible until, of course, we have an intelligence failure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Independent Senator Angus King summed it up this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: We won`t know what we`ve missed until
something blows up.
CLAPPER: Yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, one of the senators at that Armed Services
Committee hearing, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and the "Huffington Post`s"
Sam Stein. Senator, I have to ask you, we couldn`t get an answer today out
of the Justice Department. Given that we`re seeing air traffic controllers
told to stay home, are FBI agents going to be told to stay home? Are
assistant U.S. attorneys going to be told to stay home at some point? Can
you guide us on that?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: In his remarks, Lawrence,
Director Clapper made reference to FBI intelligence agents that may be
given shorter hours or even furloughs, and the same, conceivably, very
probably is true of prosecutors and FBI agents, although we have no
confirmation of it. Obviously, these impacts are the least visible.
The most visible are the impacts on air travel, 4,700 delays and 273
cancellations today alone. And then the less visible impacts on health
care and Headstart, Meals on Wheels for seniors, other kinds of service
programs, including research for cancer, in effect, undermining what we can
discover and cure for the future.
O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, it seems like nothing has gotten Washington`s
attention to these sequester cut more than what we`re seeing in the air
traffic story these days.
SAM STEIN, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Well, before that, keep in mind,
there was the White House tours, which got Washington`s attention because
it was a problem in Washington. But yes, the Delta Shuttle -- the
inconveniences at the Delta Shuttle line has also gotten Washington`s
attention. And the senator`s right. The actual impacts of sequestration
have been felt far beyond the northeast corridor.
Headstart programs are taking kids off. Private cancer clinics are
stopping treating patients because they don`t have the funds to do it.
It`s too expensive. Military tuition assistance has been denied in certain
places. One of my particular favorite ones was that an audit agency -- a
government audit agency that has helped save the government billions of
dollars over the course of several years was forced to shut down its
offices because of sequestration.
So we actually pulled the money away from an agency that helped us
save money. So these cuts are very blunt. They were designed to be very
blunt and discriminate because everyone thought they would be replaced.
But there seems to be no political headwinds to replacing them right now.
O`DONNELL: I want to listen to what the FBI director had to say at a
House hearing a month ago about these cuts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: According to our current estimates,
sequestration would reduce the bureau`s budget by more than 550 million
dollars for the remainder of this fiscal year. And because 60 percent of
the FBI`s budget pays for personnel, and they, the personnel, are our
resources -- they are the FBI -- we have planned for the possibility of
furloughs. And any furlough would pose a risk to FBI operations, in
particular, in the areas of counterterrorism and cyber.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator Blumenthal, what more could Congress ask for in
terms of a warning about what these cuts are doing?
BLUMENTHAL: The question now, Lawrence, is what Congress will do
about it. We proposed today that the sequester, the self-inflicted wound,
a very serious one, be avoided through a plan to use what is called the
overseas contingency operation account, which is money that`s been budgeted
for an Afghanistan war five years and more out, that will simply not be
The Republicans counted that money as savings in their budget, the
Ryan budget. And we`re saying let`s take about 140 billion of
approximately 600 billion that can be saved and avoid the sequester for the
next five months. Those absolutely chilling consequences not only to our
intelligence operation but also to military readiness and the human
And by the way, you know, air travel is not just a luxury for a lot of
people. It involves local economic development. It involves business
costs. And it`s like having a blizzard every day where air travel is
stymied and stopped. So we really need to avoid these absolutely
indiscriminate, arbitrary, across the board slashing cuts.
O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, what is your sense of Congress` -- both bodies
now -- it`s not just up to the senators, but the House of Representatives
in particular, what`s your sense of their ability to gather and do
something about this?
STEIN: My sense is that there is very little willingness or ability
to do anything about it. It all comes down to how you design a package to
replace what is 85 billion dollars in cuts for the next fiscal year, close
to a trillion dollars in cuts over a 10-year period. How do you replace
that? The two political parties have very divergent views on what should
be done to replace it.
It basically comes down, if you want to think about it in simplest
terms, to whether or not you use additional revenue and whether that should
be a component of it. Keep in mind, the president`s budget does replace
it. But because it involves revenue it`s a nonstarter for House
Republicans. House Republicans want to get rid of just the defense part of
it, keep the domestic stuff. And that`s a nonstarter for Democrats.
So we`re at a log jam here, and I don`t really see any key point where
it gets broken.
O`DONNELL: Senator Blumenthal, I want to play an exchange that you
had with Mr. Clapper at last week`s hearing. Let`s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLUMENTHAL: Finally, you spoke a few minutes ago about the challenges
of recruiting and keeping the best minds in America, which all of us want
to be available to the American intelligence community. Is there anything
that we can do to encourage or support that effort?
CLAPPER: Well, sir, it would be nice if they would get a pay raise
occasionally. And it would be nice not to be threatened with furloughs.
BLUMENTHAL: I take that to heart and to mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator, you raised such a very important, long-term
question. People thinking about going into this line of work, a young law
school graduate, perhaps, thinking I`d like to go into the FBI. Today with
furloughs and with sequester cuts, you have to wonder whether you`ll be
able to make your mortgage payments.
BLUMENTHAL: It really is a profoundly significant question, Lawrence.
And I`m so glad that you`ve raised it, because we really need the best and
the brightest to go into public service, whether it`s the intelligence
community or our military, our men and women in uniform are demoralized by
these threats of sequester and lack of pay and support. And the military
health care insurance program is threatened to the tune of about three
billion, as our chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey,
warned in a hearing just about the same time as Director Clapper.
So I think that the ramifications, the ripple effects for our entire
economy, our social and political fabric are profound and far-reaching.
And that`s why, as has been just observed, the kind of gridlock that we see
is so destructive. And by the way, you know, there were 52 votes,
Democratic votes, for an alternative back on February 28th, that would have
involved smart targeted cuts in certain areas of defense as well as the
Buffett Rule millionaire tax and cuts in the farm subsidy program.
There are ways to raise revenue that simply close loopholes without
raising taxes. And we need to break that logjam.
O`DONNELL: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sam Stein of
the "Huffington Post," thank you both for joining me tonight.
STEIN: Thanks, Lawrence.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, how a senator rewrote his vote last week on
background checks for gun purchases and shamed himself in the process.
And later, the president`s dinner with the senators. Tonight, it`s
the women senators. Karen Finney will join me.
O`DONNELL: The president and First Lady`s visits to Boston hospitals
last Thursday after the interfaith service in the cathedral were off limits
to the media. But personal photos were bound to come out. Here`s one of
Heather Abbott and the First Lady at Brigham and Women`s Hospital. Heather
lost her left foot in the second explosion.
O`DONNELL: Every once in a while, there is a vote in the United
States Senate that separates the senators from the cowards, the political
cowards. There were seven of those votes last week when the Senate
considered gun safety legislation. The principle item in the legislation
that Senator Harry Reid brought tot he Senate floor was, of course, an
expansion of the gun background check program, which already covers about
60 percent of current gun sales in this country. It was easy to vote for.
That`s why it got 54 votes.
Even though it got a majority of the passed, it of course did not
pass, because it was one of those anti-democracy days in the Senate where a
majority rule was rewritten to mean 60 percent rule. In order to actually
pass the measure required 60 votes. Never mind that 90 percent of America
supported it. It reacquired 60 votes.
The two most cowardly votes cast on this one were from a Democrat and
a Republican. Senator Max Baucus of Montana voted no, and everyone assumed
he did so to protect himself in his reelection campaign next year. But he
announced today that he is not running for reelection. He knew that last
week. Senator Baucus didn`t wake up this morning and suddenly decide he
wasn`t running. That`s not the way senators make the decision not to run.
And that is not the way Max Baucus makes decisions.
He is a careful, calculating and very, very slow decider. So when he
cast that cowardly vote last week, he knew he wasn`t running for
reelection. And in the process, he betrayed the junior senator from
Montana, John Tester, a Democrat who cast the politically brave vote for a
Montana senator and voted yes. What John Tester needed that day was
political cover from Max Baucus, a little help. John Tester needed to be
able to say, when he went back to Montana, hey, Max voted for it, too.
Now, when Senator Tester goes back to Montana, he`s going to be
challenged with, hey, Baucus voted against it, why didn`t you? The junior
senator from Arizona got exactly the kind of political cover that John
Tester would have appreciated from Max Baucus. The senior senator from
Arizona, John McCain, voted for expanding background checks. But that
wasn`t enough to pump up Jeff Flake`s courage to do the right thing.
Senator Flake, who has to explain his vote to the very same voters
John McCain is accountable to, followed the lead of his party instead of
his senior senator and voted against background checks, something that 90
percent of America wanted. And in casting his vote, Senator Flake had to
Karen Teves wrote a letter to Senator Flake asking him to support gun
safety legislation. She told the senator about her son Alex, who was
murdered while shielding his girlfriend from bullets in that Aurora,
Colorado, movie theater where 12 people were murdered and 58 were wounded.
Senator Flake wrote a handwritten letter to the grieving mother. Here it
He begins by apologizing for the fact that she received a form letter
from his office in response to what he calls "her heartfelt note." He
says, "I regret you received an impersonal response to such personal words.
I am truly sorry for your deep loss. Your son`s actions were truly heroic.
I read your letter. While we may not agree on every solution,
strengthening background checks is something we agree on. Your family will
be in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your note. Kind regards,
So this freshman Republican hand-writes a letter telling a grieving
mother that strengthening background checks is something we agree on. And
then he walks into the Senate chamber and raises his hand to vote against
strengthening background checks, even though he had political cover from
the senior senator from Arizona, who was voting for background checks.
Freshman Senator Jeff Flake rewrote himself on the spot and voted against
background checks. He rewrote this letter on the spot. He voted against
Karen Teves. He voted against the family that he said in his letter,
quote, "will be in my thoughts and prayers."
Now I`ve seen senators do a lot of cowardly things, hypocritical
things. But I have never seen anything like this. I have never seen
anything like this letter and that vote.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, President Obama dined at the White House with one
fifth of the United States Senate, 20 of the women senators. Democratic
Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii Tweeted this picture of the dinner. And
"Politico" is reporting tonight that President Obama pushed for the women
in the Senate to play a key role in a big budget compromise.
President Obama acknowledged that historically the ones who have been
able to get things done are female lawmakers, Democratic Senator Amy
Klobuchar said. Sixteen of the women senators are Democrats; four are
Republicans. Dinner plans came about in a conversation between President
Obama and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I said, you know, now that
you`re starting your new term, if you want to create a bipartisan agenda, a
great place to start is with the women senators. We meet regularly. We
have a dinner every quarter. And oftentimes, the women are the ones to
reach across party lines, find consensus. He said, well, that`s a great
idea, and I`ll have you one better. Instead of going to one of your
dinners, I`ll have you come to the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, the women senators really are the only
bipartisan regularly talking to each other group in Washington.
KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: More evidence of why women
should just rule the world.
O`DONNELL: You got it. Case closed. It`s done.
FINNEY: We solved it. It`s interesting because Senator Gillibrand
happens to be a friend and she told me about these gatherings a while ago.
And women are more collaborative in their leadership style. So they talk
about, you know, how can we get this done; if I can`t cosponsor it with
you, maybe you could do it this way. That`s how it`s supposed to be,
right? It`s like, how are we going to move the ball forward.
So it makes sense that he would, A, call upon the women, but B, call
upon them to push the budget, because I doubt that we would have had the
fiscal cliff crisis if women would have been running things.
O`DONNELL: And we`ve just been talking about the sequester here, what
that is doing to the FAA, what it might be doing to the FBI. And so the
only solution to that is some big budget deal. But now let`s listen to
what Senator Susan Collins had to say today about this FAA crisis before
going to dinner with the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It is also a manufactured crisis that
this administration has the authority, working with Congress, to prevent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree with Senator Collins. This is a
manufactured crisis. But I would add the words phony and contrived to that
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It smells and smells of politics. There clearly
is an agenda here which I think the American people are paying the price
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So I wonder how the manufactured crisis discussion went up
FINNEY: Obviously she had to do the talking points when in front of
the cameras with the fellows, right? But no, I mean, the tone of these
dinners traditionally, from what I understand, has been, as I say, very
collegial, and more like --
O`DONNELL: Are the Republican women just rolling their eyes the whole
time about the guys they have to deal with on their side of the aisle?
FINNEY: I will tell you that one of the participants in this dinner
said to me at one point, you know, sometimes we just have to get away from
the testosterone. So that should tell you a little bit. Yes, sometimes
they just have to get away from the fellows to try to get something done.
O`DONNELL: It`s a very interesting possibility here, that this really
could be -- we`ve talked about, different things happen, the gang of eight
and these different crews get together of senators who think they`re like
minded. But this -- this continued bipartisan discussion that women are
having in the Senate is such a fascinating opportunity for the president.
FINNEY: It really is. And also remember you`ve got women in
leadership positions in the Senate. You`ve got Patty Murray.
O`DONNELL: Yes, they used to be junior. Now they`re up in some real
FINNEY: That`s right. What would be wonderful is if we could see
some of that in the House, because maybe the women in the House could try
to bring some of --
O`DONNELL: Which House? The House of Representatives?
FINNEY: The House of --
O`DONNELL: Oh, Karen Finney.
FINNEY: I`m just going to dare to dream.
O`DONNELL: Just stop right there. Karen Finney gets tonight`s LAST
WORD. Thank you very much, Karen.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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