Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
April 10, 2014

Guests: Isabel Wilkerson, Jim Downey, Bill Carter, Michael Shear; Loretta
Weinberg

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: President Obama said he wouldn`t be
where he is today without the work of civil -- the civil rights movement
and President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

And Stephen Colbert would not be going where he is going were it not
for David Letterman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: Progress in this country
can be hard and slow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama set to address the civil rights
summit today in Austin, Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The focus of three days of reflection on the
history since that time.

OBAMA: The Voting Rights Act. Immigration reform. Fair Housing Act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In consideration of what should happen next.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The next frontier for civil rights.

OBAMA: Equality required more than absence of oppression.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Obama wants equality in the work place.
That makes no sense. Why would I stare at a man`s chest?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we have very big news from the world of late
night TV.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a new contender for the king of late
night, Stephen Colbert will be the next host of the late show.

COLBERT: I live my life by a scorched earth policy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Colbert will play himself.

COLBERT: This was my enemy. Now I have his head.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not the character he plays on Comedy Central.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: No longer is comedy going to be a covert
assault.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rush Limbaugh said that CBS has declared war.

LIMBAUGH: CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you just said is one of the most insanely
idiotic things I have ever heard.

LIMBAUGH: That`s what I think. Cool? Fine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: The keynote address at Civil Rights Summit this week at
LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, was delivered today by the 44th president of
the United States who expressed his gratitude to the 36th president of the
United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Because of the civil rights movement, because of the laws
President Johnson signed, new doors of opportunity and education swung open
for everybody. Not all at once, but, but they swung open. Not just blacks
and whites. But also women, and Latinos, and Asians, and Native Americans,
and gay Americans, and Americans with a disability.

They swung open for you. And they swung open for me. That`s why I am
standing here today because of those efforts, because of that legacy.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama quoted President Johnson sparingly today.
President Johnson was not the gifted public speaker that Barack Obama is or
that Martin Luther King Jr. was or Jack Kennedy. Few people who lived
through the Johnson era can quote a single Johnson line. But none of them
forget JFK`s inaugural line "ask not what your country can do for you, ask
what you can do for your country." None of them forget Richard Nixon being
forced to say "I am not a crook." None of them forget Martin Luther King
Jr.`s "I have a dream" speech.

There is no singular defining rhetorical moment that we all share as a
memory of the Johnson presidency but President Obama clearly has a
favorite. He quoted it today.

When in a speech off to Congress urging the passing of the Voting
Rights Act, LBJ recalled his days as a school teacher in Cotulla, Texas,
where few of his students could speak English and he couldn`t speak much
Spanish. His students were poor and as he remembered it, often came to
class without breakfast and hungry.

President Obama quoted the part of the speech where LBJ told Congress
it never occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance
to help the sons and daughters of those students. When President Obama
finished the quote in which he also included LBJ sharing a little secret
with Congress, President Obama said, that was LBJ`s greatest. That`s why
we remember him.

It was certainly LBJ`s most personal speech as president. Fifty years
ago, politicians and presidents did not have handlers who were constantly
urging them to personalize everything they said. And LBJ did so very
rarely.

Here is the original version of what President Obama calls LBJ`s
greatest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I often walked home late in the
afternoon after the classes were finished, wishing there was more that I
could do. But all I knew was to teach them the little that I knew, hoping
that it might help them against the hardships that lay ahead. And somehow,
you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on
the hopeful face of a young child.

I never thought then in 1928 that I would be standing here in 1965.
It never occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance
to help the sons and daughters of those students and to help people like
them all over this country.

But now I do have that chance. And I will let you in on a secret. I
mean to use it.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Isabel Wilkerson, author of "The New
York Times" bestseller, "The Warmth of Other Sons", and "The Washington
Post`s" E.J, Dionne.

Isabel, I just want to begin by getting your reaction to President
Obama`s speech today?

ISABEL WILKERSON, "THE WARMTH OF OTHER SONS" AUTHOR: Well, I thought
it was magnificent to see the president of the United States who is in some
ways of the embodiment of all of the ideals of the Civil Rights Act that we
are commemorating today. And through his word, he acknowledged the role of
history and the importance this played in his own life, his wife`s life and
also in every family in the United States, that benefited from this law in
ways we might not imagine.

And he also spoke to the enduring, perhaps even most important part of
this law. And that was that it opened the doors for so many people and
that it actually stood there as a portal, you might say to open the hearts
and mind of people as much as the law itself.

O`DONNELL: There has been a lot of glorifying of LBJ this week.
That`s what presidential libraries are for. That seems to be their core
mission.

And there was President Obama today talking about LBJ and civil rights
movement. But he could not do a real discussion of that, without including
some of LBJ`s history on this subject before he became president. Let`s
listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Now, like any of us he was not a perfect man. His experiences
in rural Texas may have stretched his moral imagination, but he was
ambitious. Very ambitious, of a young man in a hurry to plot his own
escape from poverty and to chart his own political career.

And in the Jim Crow South, that meant not challenging convention.
During his first 20 years in Congress, he opposed every civil rights bill
that came up for a vote, once calling the push for federal legislation, a
farce and a shame.

He was chosen as a vice presidential nominee in part of his affinity
with an ability to deliver that Southern white vote.

O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne, a note of reality about the road traveled by
LBJ to eventually signing the Civil Rights Act.

E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, it`s very rare that one
politician will acknowledge of another or of any of us as human beings that
we are flawed, we do some things sometimes for our own interests, and not
for some higher cause that we later get associated with.

So, I just think it is wonderful for a politician to acknowledge sin.
But, you know, with the amazing thing, as Isabel just said -- here is the
most successful politician of our moment acknowledging his debt to a group
of politicians of 50 years ago, and who were imperfect, who did things for
all kind of reasons other than the lofty, who nonetheless, were able to
pass a piece of legislation that fundamentally transformed our country and
transformed it for the better.

I remember that time I was very young, and people would say, you can`t
legislate morality. That`s what the opponents of the civil rights bill
would say.

But, in fact, they did legislate morality. They fundamentally altered
the kind of racist leaning that the country had had for so long. And they
not only made certain things unacceptable by law, but all -- but over time,
they made racism unacceptable. And most of us now believe that that`s the
case. And that`s partly because of this imperfect group of politicians who
pass that bill.

O`DONNELL: Isabel, there is a lot of discussion about where the
credit belongs. And President Obama certainly wasn`t exclusively giving
credit to LBJ today. He kept mentioning the civil rights movement and the
civil rights movement pushing politicians like LBJ and in some sense,
pushing them into a corner.

How would you assign credit for where we got in 1964, 1965?

WILKERSON: When you think about where the country was at that time,
where the -- into the 1960s, you were, the South was essentially gripped in
what can only be called a caste system in which every single thing that an
individual could do, in that part of the country was determined what they
looked like and the caste into which they had been born. So many basic
things people could not do.

They were -- there were separate staircases for people to walk up.
There were separate telephone booths. Everything you can imagine was
segregated.

And so, to have a world of that extremity, and to recognize that that
was the world they were in, and that here, this was this potential to
create this entire new way of being in our country. It would take far more
than one person to do it. It would take far more than even one branch of
government. It meant every single thing, every aspect of our country in
some ways had to come together.

The entire experience in some ways was a kind of miracle when you
think about it.

It also took the mass relocation of people from the South, the $6
million people who fled the south, to get to the north and the west. Those
people were a referendum on the conditions in that part of our country, and
by their leaving, they also created a whole new class of new voters who did
not exist before, putting so much pressure on the North and the South to
ultimately change.

So it took it from all points of our country to make this happen.

E.J., that`s such an important point that Isabel chronicles in the
book, that migration from the South and North. And other regions where
suddenly these northern senators and, congressmen, had new constituents who
cared about an issue that -- that those northern representatives might not
have had to pay attention to.

DIONNE: Right. I mean, African-American voters mattered a lot to
carrying Illinois. They mattered a lot to carrying Pennsylvania and New
York. And to become president, politicians need to carry those states.
So, that made a difference.

Bu the existence of a movement as opposed to just a single person is
so important to all the social change in our history. Lincoln could not
have done what he did without the abolitionists, even though he wasn`t an
abolitionist. And FDR couldn`t have done all he did without the union
movement, even though he wasn`t a member of the union movement.

And I don`t think LBJ could have done what he did without a mass civil
rights movement, built out of the African-American churches, involving the
church`s unions and a whole lot of other people in the country. Movements
are central to social change and politicians who want to do something will
do what they can if the movement lets them do it.

O`DONNELL: Isabel Wilkerson and E.J. Dionne -- thank you for your
historical perspective on this tonight. Thank you very much for joining
us.

DIONNE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and
human services is resigning. And later, the Department of Justice finds
that the Albuquerque police are guilty of excessive use of force, including
deadly force.

And, next, look out, Jimmy, Jimmy, Conan, and Arsenio, Stephen is
coming.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America.
There is a -- here is -- no longer is comedy going to be a covert assault
on traditional American values, conservatives. Now, it`s just wide out in
the open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you just said is one of the most insanely
idiotic things I have ever heard. In no point in your rambling in coherent
response were you even close to anything that could be considered a
rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened
to it.

(END VIDEO CLP)

O`DONNELL: Up next, one of the men you just saw will join me to talk
about Stephen Colbert succeeding David Letterman on the late show. Guess
which one, Rush Limbaugh or Jim Downey?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: The next thing you know I will be forced into the closet for
my beliefs. Everywhere I go, people will assume that I`m OK with gay
marriage. I will know mine heart that is not who I am. No one can ever
make me believe it gets better, because frankly, things are pretty great
for me right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Stephen Colbert last night when it turns out that
he already knew things were going to get better for him today. After an
intense week of speculation, since David Letterman announced he well do his
final top 10 list next year, CBS announced today that Stephen Colbert will
take over the late show when Dave leaves.

Stephen Colbert released a statement today saying, "I won`t be doing
the new show in character, because we`ll all get to find out how much of
him was me. I am looking forward to it."

And later, David Letterman said, "Stephen has always been a real
friend to me. I`m very excited for him and I`m flattered that CBS chose
him. I also happen to know they wanted another guy with glasses."

And Jimmy Fallon tweeted his welcome to network late night and also
congratulated him on his name, Jimmy Colbert.

Joining me now is former head writer of "Saturday Night Live," former
head writer of "Late Night with David Letterman" when he was here on NBC.
And as you saw, some times actor Jim Downey. Also with us, Bill Carter,
national media reporter for "The New York Times." He is the author of "The
Late Shift."

Jim, you told me after the first week of your, you know all these
guys, close, friends with all of them. The first week of Jimmy Fallon`s
new hosting of "The Tonight Show", you predicted to me that Dave would soon
announce he wasn`t going to stay.

JIM DOWNEY, FMR. SNL WRITER: Right. Just -- that first, that first
week, of seeing all that energy from Jimmy Fallon. And knowing that he was
just down the street from Dave, something, it flashed mine head that Dave
is going to, like Johnny Carson, you know, about the same age. He is the
same age as Johnny when he retired, and I figured that, I just -- I just
guessed. It turns out right that he would announce his retirement.

I want to show, Bill, something that I think is the new job
requirement for late night established by Jimmy Fallon. And that is you
have got to be able to sing and dance. Stephen Colbert can do that. We
actually have a clip of Colbert doing this with Jimmy Fallon.

So, let`s take a look at that.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

O`DONNELL: Bill, it began with Stephen Colbert carrying the song
himself, no one else on stage. You look at the energy that Jim was talking
about, that Jimmy Fallon brings to this. And these guys, you know, Jay,
Dave, sitting behind the desk asking the questions. This is the --

BILL CARTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The last generation. This is newt
generation.

And really what Jimmy Fallon is doing, is obviously paying off
already, making it a high energy more variety show -- a lot of singing,
dancing, lot of clever bits with the guests instead of interviewing them,
playing games. I expect Colbert, because people don`t realize this. He
has the skills. He really does. He performed in company with the New York
Philharmonic in the lead male role. He`s got that chops to do that.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

Jim, I was speaking to Robert Morton today, former producer of Dave`s
show, back when you were there at the NBC side, and when they went to CBS.
And Morty says that you guys tried to always get the guests to do something
the way Jimmy does now -- sing, dance, do something. But they started it,
it started to wear thin pretty quickly because they`re all on these busy
junkets, hard to get them to cooperate in the performance, isn`t it?

DOWNEY: In the early years of late night, we were, were not
considered a hot spot. Also Dave -- Dave himself was a little more
restrained in the days. I mean, people -- if you watch some of those first
couple years of late night when I was there, compared to Dave, you know, of
the late 90s and today, you`d be shocked.

But definitely, Jimmy Fallon is another notch up. He is more -- he`s
got a sort of Sammy Davis, Jr. kind of, you know, high energy show business
performance thing. I agree with what Bill and you said that Stephen
Colbert. A lot of us have known him a long time, have sort of regretted
the fact he has been locked into one character for these years, because
there are a lot of people who have no idea what a great performer he is.

I wanted to pay real homage to David Letterman, because a lot of
people have seen him asking questions behind the desk for the last several
years. Don`t remember how edgy and different this one. And, Jim, I`m
going to show a clip of Velcro man which you will remember, this was Sandy
Franks idea. And Joe Toplin (ph) they were working as a team back then in
the early days of the Letterman show when it was here at NBC.

Let`s look at Velcro man with David Letterman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Now, have you ever done anything like
this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven`t, no.

LETTERMAN: A drum roll. I will hit the wall and stay there, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, theoretically.

LETTERMAN: Go high. As high as I can go. OK.

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN: I can`t -- I can`t -- there is -- there is very little I
can do from this position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Bill, that was the weirdest, funniest stuff on TV in those
days.

CARTER: Yes. He -- Dave was inventive. Many of the things he did.
Everybody else copied, all the visits to places, taking cameras into
places. He did all that. He invented that. And it was a high energy show
in those days, which is what Jim was saying. Fallon brought that back,
really.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Jim Downey, Bill Carter, thank you very much for
joining me tonight.

DOWNEY: Lawrence, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Jim, go ahead. I am sure you have something very
important to say.

DOWNEY: I tried really hard to think of a tie-in to the Chris
Christie thing.

O`DONNELL: Oh, please?

DOWNEY: I just couldn`t come up with anything.

O`DONNELL: All right, nice try. That`s very good. Thank you very
much.

All right, thanks, Jim. Thanks, Bill.

Coming up next -- Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen
Sebelius has decided to leave the Obama administration.

And later, the latest on the investigation into the Christie
administration -- Jim Downey is not going to help us on it. But New Jersey
Senator Loretta Weinberg will join us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY: Last week, we announced that 7.1
million Americans have signed up for private insurance through the market
place. As of this week, 400,000 additional Americans have signed up, and
we expect that number to continue to grow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was the big news in health and human services secretary
Kathleen Sebelius` testimony to the Senate finance committee today.

Tonight, NBC News has confirmed that Kathleen Sebelius who has been in the
Obama cabinet since the beginning is resigning. President Obama is
expected to nominate office of management and budget director Sylvia
Matthews Burwell to replace her. That announcement will take place at
11:00 a.m. tomorrow at the White House.

Joining me now is Michael Shear of "The New York Times" who interviewed
secretary Sebelius today. Also with us on the phone, Chuck Todd, NBC News
chief White House correspondent.

Chuck, this news -- it makes, leaves me wondering, has this been something
that was planned and then delayed because of the bumpy rollout of the
affordable care act and they didn`t want tight look like it was in any way
associated with some of the failures in the rollout of the affordable care
act?

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well,
they will not say that this was planned. But I can tell you talking to
plenty of officials they have lost confidence in her at least politically.
And I say politically here, because as you know these are a couple
different jobs that she had to do. But they have lost all confidence in
her as a public face for the health care law quite some time ago. And that
is when the decision had been made in some form that they needed to do
something about this after enrollment.

Now it was never a done deal even during that time. But the president, if
you recall, was always very careful with his words. When asked numerous
times during the really rough period of the rollout, October and November,
including the interview I did with him. He pointedly did not express
confidence in her, perfectly. You know, he just simply said, we are going
to take a look at how everything was running. What happened after the
fact, after enrollment is done that the first thing we have to do to get
this done.

So, if enrollment went well -- the irony here is that if enrollment went
well just give them, they believe, more coverage to do this. If enrollment
hadn`t gone well, things were still getting battered, the last thing they
would want to do was deal with confirmation hearing in some cases.

But this was politically they had lost confidence in her months ago. And
it is just they didn`t want to deal with anything to disrupt the fix and
the enrollment process. And frankly, all you can do is see it. You know,
the White House can say whatever they want about secretary Sebelius that
she wasn`t forced out and she choose to resign. She didn`t do a single
television.

After the daily show, frankly, debacle interview that she did with Jon
Stewart. It is pretty much the last time you saw her do a public interview
with any national reporter on any national stage. And including at the
time of the big announcement on the rollout, right, on March 31st, April
1st, April 2nd. She was physically there in the Rose Garden. But she
never got a shot out from the president which was noted. And she never had
a role. It wasn`t standing next to him. That wasn`t an accident,
Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Michael Shear, once they got the affordable care act Web site
standing up and running reliably. It seemed to me that she had completely
regained her stride in Congress any way in terms of dealing with the
congressional committees. That she had to respond to. I mean, she seemed
as confident as any health and human services secretary hive have seen in
the committees?

MICHAEL SHEAR, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, sure. But of course it
is easier to face those committees when the news is good rather than when
the news is bad. And the numbers did start improving in certainly in
January, February, and then again in March when, when they actually hit
their target.

You know, I talked to Dennis McDonough, the chief of staff today, about her
departure. And he said one of the things the president really always
admired despite the fact that I agree with Chuck that, that lost sort of a
political confidence in her, but they always admired and the president
always admired, according to, Dennis McDonough, her fierce advocacy on
behalf of the law, she was a fighter that she never backed down.

And when I talked to her today, I asked her the very question you just
asked which did you worry that if you had resigned a few months ago, it
would look like you were resigning in pressure? She said, well, sure that
narrative is going to be out there. But that she always sort of assumed
that around now she would leave. That she wouldn`t be here to turn out the
lights in 2017.

O`DONNELL: Well, Michael, this is also one of the logical points in an
administration where cabinet members leave. We saw, Hillary Clinton do it
at the end of the first term. I mean, and this would be, you know,
overlapping certainly into the second term. But it is a very long run for
-- for a cabinet member. I`m not sure off the top of my head, what the
average tenure is at HHS, but it is less than the time she served.

SHEAR: Well, and she is one of the last -- I mean, I think there is only
five others beside her who have been here since the beginning. And look,
as Chuck said, I remember when Chuck asked Jay Carney just last week about
this question where is Kathleen Sebelius and do you all still have
confidence in her? And you know, Carney sort of said absolutely we have
confidence on her. You are reading too much into it.

But clearly, we weren`t reading too much into it, right? I mean, clearly,
the writing had been on the wall. She started these conversations with the
president beginning of March.

O`DONNELL: Chuck Todd, does the White House expect that this will kind of
create yet another kind of positive new start for affordable care act?

TODD: It is possible. But you know there is a political risk here,
Lawrence. You know, we were just -- I will be honest with you. Martin and
I, talked about our lead tomorrow for first lead (ph). And one of the
things we were talking about is, here all of a sudden the White House had
gone, a good ten days without health care being, you know, they want health
care in the rearview mirror. They don`t sit here and believe in campaign
14. They know health care isn`t necessarily ever going to turn into an
asset for them in time for the 2014 election. But they certainly would
look to lessen the hostility towards the law. They do believe there is
fatigue out there among some people about this constant fight on health
care law.

So the down side of making this switch, at the time they`re making it, is
that you know this confirmation hearing. Even though, Sylvia Burwell is
actually very well elected in Capitol Hill, sort of people, you know, she
got a very smooth confirmation hearing when it came to being on the
director. She has been through this process. Been very vetted, all of
those things. Republicans are going to see a political opportunity here to
essentially do a drum beat on health care again. And that is the, you
know, that is the political risk that they`re taking.

But again, I go back to what I have been told by plenty of senior aides
about, about Kathleen Sebelius. They were happy with her loyalty. They
were happy with the product that she developed. But they really thought
her management skills and some of her instincts about the people she picked
to run the enrollment and run the law, that`s where they lost confidence in
her.

And you know what? They have another, you know, the next round is, could
just as important as this one. When they start open enrollment again in
November especially when you consider they have the new potential raid hike
(ph) that are going to come. What are they going to be? How high, et
cetera? So, they did want a new team in place with plenty of time to get
ready for November.

O`DONNELL: Michael Shear, what was her mood today when you were talking to
her?

SHEAR: You know it was surprisingly upbeat. She, you know, asked her,
whether she thought she would, you know, what she would miss or what she
would regret, what regrets she had. He said she don`t have hey lot of
regrets. I mean, obviously, I think that`s a, you know, that is maybe
putting a positive spin on it.

But she was, you know, she said, look, I am going to go back to Kansas. My
husband is a judge back there. I have my youngest son is getting married
at the end of the month, at the end of May. And you know, I really got the
sense that as much as she probably is frustrated with leaving under the
kind of cloud that she is leaving with all of the political baggage. That
she is also, there has to be a since of relief there, you know.

This is, she has been in the trenches, you know since the very beginning.
And the fight over just passing the law was pretty intense. And the fight
since then has gotten even more so. So, I definitely picked up a sense of
relief that maybe this is -- she said to me at one point. You know one
thing I am not going to miss is, going off to all the hearings all the
time.

O`DONNELL: No one ever does miss that.

Chuck Todd, and Michael Shear, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

SHEAR: Sure.

TODD: You got it, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the department of justice rewrites what we know
about the Albuquerque police department and their use of force including
deadly force.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In an editorial this week, "the Wall Street Journal" gave of on
the repeal of Obamacare. The reality is that the law can`t be repealed
until President Obama leaves office in 2017. Patience is less a virtue
than necessity rooting for voters to be harmed is not a helpful electoral
coping strategy.

And then, last night, on FOX News, Charles Krauthammer gave up on Benghazi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Politically speaking the
administration has won. They ran out the clock. I just think that as a
political issue, the country is now tired of it. And to rev it up with a
special committee is simply not going to work. I wish it had. And I do
think the Republicans and the hearings that they had, which are completely
disorganized let the thing slip away. Sometimes you blow it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The rewrite is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In "the rewrite" the Albuquerque police department and
allegations that some of its officers have unjustifiably used deadly force.
The latest example, the killing of a homeless man for the crime of illegal
camping.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)

O`DONNELL: The verdict is in on the Albuquerque police department. Today,
the department of justice released their findings from an investigation
into whether the Albuquerque police have engaged in a pattern of excessive
force.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOCELYN SAMUELS, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have determined that there
is reasonable cause to believe that the Albuquerque police department
engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force including the
use of unreasonable deadly force. In brief, we found that the Albuquerque
police department engages in a pattern or practice of violating residents`
any 4th amendment rights by using excessive force during police encounters.

Specifically, we found that officers used deadly force in an
unconstitutional manner. We found that officers use deadly force against
people who did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious harm to the
officers or to others and against people who posed a threat only to
themselves. In fact, we found that sometimes it was the conduct of the
officers themselves that heightened the danger and escalated the need to
use force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The Albuquerque police have killed 23 people in the last four
years. Similar sized police departments typically kill two, three, four
people a year, sometimes none.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Now that a New Jersey judge says the two members of team
Christie can invoke their right not to comply with subpoenas and not
incriminate themselves, subpoenas issued by the special legislative
committee investigating the George Washington bridge, it is now up to that
special committee to decide where they will go next.

In her decision Wednesday, the judge also discussed potential
complications. The committee`s investigation could create for the U.S.
attorney`s office which is also investigating the lane closures. But the
entire investigation into Chris Christie`s administration and the George
Washington bridge may have never even begun without New Jersey State
Senator Loretta Weinberg.

An article in this week`s "New Yorker says this. Senator Weinberg`s roll
in the investigation. A 79-year-old self-described nosy Jewish grandmother
says she bungled into the port authority issue just out of my curiosity.

In September, Weinberg read an item in the "Bergen Record" about the
traffic jam. A senior official at port authority promised Weinberg that he
would get to the bottom of it. But when she didn`t hear back, she became
suspicious.

My training comes from having raised children through their adolescent
years, she said. What do you mean you didn`t have a party? You weren`t
smart enough to put the beer cans in someone else`s backyard. That`s my
investigative background.

Joining me now is New Jersey state senator Loretta Weinberg who is co-chair
of the special legislative committee investigating the George Washington
bridge scandal.

Senator, in addition to the testimony, or the, the, the records that you
were seeking from those two witnesses, is the committee also seeking the
records, notes, and other, material, from the investigation that was paid
for by New Jersey taxpayers run by Randy Mastro, Mastro came out and said
the governor has done absolutely nothing wrong?

STATE SEN. LORETTA WEINBERG, NEW JERSEY: Yes, Lawrence. I call that the
so-called investigation. That was done, the office of the governor. We
are expecting by tomorrow, the, the first of -- many documents that we have
asked for.

Mr. Mastro never even published the list of 70 people that he apparently
claims to have interviewed. There are no transcripts of his interviews.
But there are notes, memoranda notes of those interviews. And we are as a
committee, looking for those.

And we are also examining the various alternatives that we have -- based
upon the judge`s ruling that came out yesterday.

O`DONNELL: And so, could I just stop you on this transcripts issue because
that was what interested me right from the start of the, that emergency of
the investigation. I said on day one, show me the transcripts of your
taped interviews. Assuming that if these are real interviews, you tape
them, and you have transcripts. You have both. No transcripts does that
mean there are no tapes. And we have nothing but handwritten notes by
people who are in the room?

WEINBERG: As far as I know, through our lawyers talking to the Randy
Mastro lawyers, that is the fact. There are no tapes, no transcripts. And
I said after my original reading of this so-called report, that it sounded
like a defense attorney summing up before a jury. It is so filled with
gaps, with information missing, that I hardly, as I said, there are some
people who describe it as an investigation, but I don`t.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it is kind of an astonishing document. And then to
formally discover that no -- I mean, when you hear there are no
transcripts. We did not actually record in any way what was said in any of
these so-called interviews. That sound to me very clearly like, lawyers
who were theoretically doing a job for the state of New Jersey actually
sitting down and deciding our client is Chris Christie personally. We have
to make sure there is absolutely no record of what he said to us because he
might need to change that story at some point in the future.

WEINBERG: Well, in fact, there is no transcript, no tape, of what those
interviews consisted of according to, what our attorney told us.

O`DONNELL: Now, the judge said that the reason that Mr. Stepien and Ms.
Kelly can invoke the 5th amendment was as Judge Jacobson put it, she said
they could face prosecution for official misconduct in either state or
federal court and conduct that could form the basis of the prosecution is
exactly the type of conduct being investigated by the committee. Under
these circumstances it is reasonable for Mr. Stepien and Ms. Kelly to fear
they face that they currently face the hazard of prosecution in the
concurrent federal investigation.

So, there was also the suggestion in the judge`s opinion that you might be
able to more narrowly draw your subpoenas to Stepien and Kelly in such a
way that there might be some information, some forms of record that you
might be able to obtain from them. Is your counsel working on anything
like that?

WEINBERG: Yes, Lawrence. We have several alternatives that we haven`t yet
finalize. We can appeal the decision, certainly, go up to the appellate
court. We can issue new subpoenas and narrow them. Or as the judge said,
we might also be able to give some immunity in exchange for receiving those
documents. So the basic right of the committee to give immunity which has
been apparently unsettled law up until now was defined by Judge Jacobson.
So that is something that we could do after coordinating with the U.S.
attorney`s office or in discussions so that we do not interfere with any
kind of a criminal investigation that might be going on simultaneously.

And then there are still other folks that we would look to interview who
will give us some input in the way the port authority actually operates.
People who are not in the vicinity of 5th amendment issues. But who are
important to come before us, and tell us well, what did you do when you
heard about this? What are the processes that the port authority? So
there is still work for us to do. We have not yet, as I said, finalized
exactly which, of the aforementioned alternatives we are going to take.

And I must say I was smiling with your introduction from the "New Yorker"
magazine with the word self-described. I am 79. I am a grandmother. And
I am Jewish. So those happen to all be facts of life. The nosy part, I
will leave the public to make that decision along with my family.

O`DONNELL: The public elected-up to be nosy about things like this.

Senator Loretta Weinberg, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

WEINBERG: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.

END

<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2014 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2014 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>




Watch The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET


Sponsored links

Resource guide