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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, May 7, 2014

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May 7, 2014

Guests: John Bennett, Vernon Howard, Howard Dean, Mark Earley; Eugene

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: They`re fired up, ready to go, and not taking
no for an answer. Protesters deliver a message to Republicans in Missouri:
give us health care, now.



CROWD: Expand!


CROWD: Medicaid!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rally at the Missouri capitol today ended in

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were demonstrating for Medicaid expansion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And right now, Republican governors and
legislators in 21 states are blocking Medicaid expansion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans just aren`t on the right side of
American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blocking basic health care, health insurance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every governor has got two critical decisions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether to accept federal money to expand

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we set up these exchanges and expand Medicaid?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eight million people signed up in the federal
state exchanges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obamacare is not working.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four-point-eight million people enrolled through

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Medicaid is a failed program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think it makes sense to do those.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much longer can Republicans deny that this law
is working?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blocking the implementation of Obamacare will cost

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re talking about roughly 5 million Americans
in these specific states that could actually benefit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, the citizens of the state who turned down
that federal money feel about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obamacare is going to save and is right now saving
people`s lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bet they feel good.

PROTESTERS: Expand! Expand! Medicaid! Medicaid!


MELBER: Good evening. I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

It has been four years since President Obama signed the Affordable
Care Act and the law drives a ton of political disputes in Washington, as
we know, from those 50 repeal votes by House Republicans to countless
attempts to spend, attack and delegitimize the law.

When the ACA is succeeding, like this week`s news from Gallup, that
the uninsured rate hit an all-time low, people in D.C. say, hey, that`s
good for Democrats. And vice versa, when it`s faltering, like problems

But in the real world, expanding health care coverage affects real
people`s lives. For example, after Massachusetts, and act as a precursor
of the ACA, the mortality rate dropped three points. If you apply that
rate to all adults under 65 in the U.S., that would mean 17,000 fewer
deaths a year, according to a "New York Times" analysis.

And now, there`s real news about efforts to expand the ACA`s health
care coverage in the real world.

In Missouri, hundreds of protesters and clergy marched on the
statehouse and shut it down. They were taking the case for health care,
the moral case, directly to their representatives through protests and
civil disobedience.

This was not about backing the ACA to help Obama or to hurt
Republicans or any of the bickering that we so often here from D.C. This
was about unlocking the funds and the health care coverage that would
otherwise be available to some of the poorest residents of Missouri.



CROWD: Do justice!


CROWD: Have mercy!


CROWD: Be fair!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring healthcare!

CROWD: Bring healthcare!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the poorest!

CROWD: To the poorest!


CROWD: Of the poor!


CROWD: Bring dignity.


CROWD: Expand!


CROWD: Medicaid!


CROWD: Expand!


CROWD: Medicaid!


MELBER: Those protesters you see there delayed the Senate session for
about an hour. The Capitol police cleared the gallery and arrested 23
clergy members. They were later released.

Missouri`s one of the 24 states that are still declining the ACA`s
federal support for expanding Medicaid coverage. The health care is for
people who don`t make enough to buy insurance on the market.

For individuals, that means people who make about $309 a week. It`s
estimated that roughly 300,000 more Missourians would obtain the health
care they need if the state did decide to expand Medicaid.

The Democratic governor of Missouri supports taking that expansion,
but he`s faced nothing but resistance from the Republican-controlled

And now, as we`re reporting, that resistance is facing its own

Former Governor Howard Dean will join us in a moment to talk about all
of this. But first, we have two of the Missouri protesters themselves,
Reverend John Bennett and Reverend Vernon Howard who were both arrested and
released after yesterday`s protests.

Welcome to you both.

Reverend Bennett, why don`t I start with you? How did you get
involved in this? What did you do?

witness to my face, we`re trying to bring dignity to the center of public
life in Missouri. We got involved because we know that every week, 15
people in Missouri die for want of health coverage. And if Medicaid
expansion is not passed in this session, 750 additional people, brothers
and sisters, children and grandchild, will die.

We consider that morally offensive, and we protest them for that
reason, because it is morally offensive.

MELBER: Reverend, Dr. Reverend Howard, why was it worth it to you to
get arrested for this cause?

again, as Reverend Bennett has stated, our attempt is to bring dignity and
justice to the center of public life and public policy. And for now, about
18 months or so, the Missouri Senate has had opportunity to expand Medicaid
and save the lives of citizens of the state of Missouri.

We have, over that course of period, have pleaded and negotiated and
prayed and sang and visited with legislators and wrote letters and e-mails
and now, with just a few days left before the end of this legislative
session, the lives literally of 750 souls hang in the balance. And so for
us, getting arrested was worth it when it comes to comparing that to the
loss of a life in the state of Missouri.

MELBER: Well, I hear you on that, and putting it in the moral terms
and the practical terms. Let me play for you what Paul Ryan has been
saying on this score, another side of the debate. Take a listen.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Obamacare is clearly part of the
problem. It adds trillions of dollars in government spending and it has
made things worse for our economy and for working families. By 2017, CBO
projects that people will be working fewer hours precisely because of the
incentives created in this law. Between 2017 and 2024, overall labor
compensation will also decline. And these changes, they disproportionately
affect low-wage workers.

Translation? Washington is making the poverty trap much worse.


MELBER: Reverend Howard, your response?

HOWARD: Well, I think in terms of the state of Missouri, what we are
seeing is that the citizens in Missouri are dying younger and living
sicker. For the state of Missouri, if you make more than approximately
$4,200 per year, in this state, it is believed that you can afford paying
for your own health care.

This is insensitive, it is unjust, and it does not bring dignity and
justice to the lives of poor people. Not only African-Americans in the
urban core, but our white rural brothers and sisters, and our people of
faith and people who perhaps don`t embrace a faith. Nevertheless, they
deserve dignity to be brought to their lives in Columbia, Springfield, and
all over the state.

MELBER: Reverend Bennett, speak to the coalition here and the timing.
As I mentioned this our report, the ACA has been around a long time. Many
of these states are having their own local politics.

What is different now that you think you can make change here?

BENNETT: Well, first of all, we have been added as a group of clergy
for four years and our movement has continued to grow. We have become
center on a concern about the crisis in Medicaid funding and that is what
has brought us together in order that we can bring health and wholeness to
hundreds of people in Missouri that now face the prospect of death. It`s
that simple and that profound.

MELBER: Reverend John Bennett and Reverend Vernon Howard, thank you
both for joining us tonight and telling us about your efforts.

We`re now going to turn to doctor and former governor, Howard Dean.

Welcome, Governor.

Tell us your thoughts about these kind of efforts, that are so crucial
when the ACA really is a state-level debate in so many of these places.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, first of all, it`s just
shocking how much of a failed party the Republican Party is. What they are
doing is simply, in an attempt to bolster their own political fortunes,
simply refusing money that their taxpayers have already paid for, coming
back into the state. There`s just no -- other than just plain mean-
spiritedness, there is no reason to refuse this Medicaid money.

The taxpayers of Missouri are already paying for it. They`re just not
seeing any benefit, because of the stubbornness of the far right-wing
controlled legislature. I also don`t think Paul Ryan was being truthful
about the so-called poverty trap. It has been shown again and again and
again, that if you raise people out of poverty, you can`t do it simply by
raising minimum wage, you have to do it by creating a social safety net.

And I know something about this, because we use Medicaid for every
child in our state, to make every child in our state available for health
care 20 years ago. They`re not all on Medicaid, but all the ones, up into
the middle class, are able to have health insurance.

So, what these Republicans are doing, I think, is repulsive, really.
Truly, it`s repulsive, sacrificing the people who elected them for their
own political future.

MELBER: Right, I mean, I think you put it well. And it is that
stark. The president spoke about this and spoke about it in terms of
spite, which is similar to the mean spiritedness that you`re discussing
tonight. Let`s take a listen to that.


to the no expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite. You`ve
got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now, at no
cost to these states. Zero cost to these states, other than ideological
reasons, they have chosen not to provide health insurance for their

That`s wrong. It should stop. Those folks should be able to get
health insurance like everybody else.


MELBER: That`s the tough message from Washington on down. Speak to
us about the power of the activism that we`re reporting on tonight which is


DEAN: Here`s one of the interesting things about this. There are
Republican governors who have accepted Medicaid -- John Kasich, Rick Snyder
in Michigan. They`re not all these mean-spirited, craven people like Bobby
Jindal and these right-wingers. There are Republicans who do know how to
look at a balance sheet.

We can have different philosophies about using Medicaid. But what you
can`t have is sacrificing the people who pay your salary simply to gain
political advantage. That`s what these 21 states or the Republicans in
these 21 states are doing.

These guys in Missouri are doing something that`s great and it`s
modeled after, I think, the Moral Mondays in North Carolina, where you have
an extreme far right legislature, one of whom, the speaker of whom, the
leader of whom just won the Senate primary. So, you`ve got a very far-
right legislature. The people in North Carolina -- North Carolina is not
an extremist state. I think they`re disgusted by their own legislature,
and I think in Missouri, you`re going to see this as well.

And the reason these two preachers are important is because they
represent a religious coalition of people across color barriers and all
other kinds of barriers who are standing up for what Christianity is really
about, which is doing something about the poor. Jesus talked about the
poor a lot more than he ever talked about all those things that these
right-wingers are talking about. And these two men deserve, I think, a
tremendous amount of respect, because they`re living their religious
principles. And certainly, the legislature in Missouri doesn`t appear to
have any principles whatsoever.

MELBER: Former governor and doctor, Howard Dean, appreciate your
perspective tonight.

DEAN: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, protesters in Albuquerque are gearing up for a
showdown over police officers that were found too quick to use deadly force
by the Justice Department. Another resident is dead at the hands of local

And new violence erupts as the U.S. prepares for that urgent mission
in Nigeria to find those hundreds of missing schoolgirls we`ve been
reporting on. Tonight, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who was shot
by the Taliban, is speaking out on this issue.

And a disagreement breaks out in the Republican Party over the one
topic that had at one united them all, Benghazi, of course.


MELBER: Tonight, the House voted mostly along party lines to fine
former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to
testify about the alleged targeting of conservative groups by the IRS` tax
exempt organizations division. You may remember, as Lawrence O`Donnell
reported, from the beginning of this story, the IRS scandal isn`t much of a
scandal, because the IRS actually scrutinized both liberal and Tea Party
groups when determining whether they should get tax exempt status.

And the law in question says the groups must be, quote, "exclusively
engaged in social welfare." The IRS decided in 1959 to make that, quote,
"primarily engaged in social welfare, and that leaves room for political
advertising alongside that of serving social welfare." It`s an old story
but it`s not ending.

Now, up next, the Republican majority leader refuses to denounce his
party using the new Benghazi committee for politics.



REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I will cite myself as an
example. I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four
murdered Americans. Even in a culture of hyper-partisanship, certain
things that ought to be above politics, like the murder of our four fellow
Americans, and like whether or not you can trust what any administration,
Republican or Democrat, tells you.


MELBER: That was Congressman Trey Gowdy, who Republicans picked to
run a new committee focused entirely on Benghazi, arguing that the House
GOP`s new effort should not politicize or fundraise off Benghazi.

But while he was making that very case here on MSNBC, as it happens,
the official House GOP re-election committee was e-mailing supporters this
fund-raising e-mail. Not only citing Benghazi as a reason to donate, but
tastelessly offering donors the chance to become a, quote, "Benghazi
watchdog," whatever that means. The solicitation mentions Gowdy by name as

Now, he`s already been pressed on this contradiction and he says he
unambiguously asked his colleagues to follow his preference of not fund-
raising the Benghazi investigation. So far, they`re not listening.

Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader, refused to specifically
answer questions about that political fund-raising e-mail.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: There`s a lot of discussion
about the creation of this select committee and around the politics of it
versus the policy of it. And I know that, you know, there`s much being
hurled about right now. And I know there`s a lot of other allegations
around this, but we should stay focused on that issue and make sure we get
to the bottom of it.


MELBER: Now, that is the whole point there. Cantor`s non-answer
assumes the reason, as he put it, for another Benghazi investigation is
obviously legitimate, improving security, for example.

And that may be the motivation for some Republicans. But for many
others, Benghazi no longer reflects a tragedy as it should. It reflects an

That`s why members of the Republican leadership are so eager to
fundraise off of it this week, before their new committee is even
officially formed. That`s why the word Benghazi itself has taken on such
force on the right.

It`s become sort of an origin story for the myth that Hillary Clinton
was a bad diplomat and Barack Obama a failed commander in chief, even as
the previous investigations and reviews found no such conspiracy from the

And that`s the hypocrisy at the root of this never-ending story. The
very Republicans who began an inquisition to supposedly defend and honor
our fallen heroes are now the ones turning those very deaths into political
theater, political posturing, and as you`re seeing today, a whole lot of
political fundraising.

Joining me now is executive editor, Richard Wolffe, and
"Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC contributor, Eugene Robinson.

Welcome, gentleman.

Richard, how do they proceed here and claim this is not political?

some sympathy for them. They`re frustrated because they cannot get to what
they`ve already reached, which is, actually, the bottom of their story.

So, the frustration is they want this to continue. The frustration
is, there`s got to be some other explanation, because the explanation that
everyone else has found just doesn`t make any sense for their politics.

At the same time, you`ve got the Republican base losing the fire in
its belly about Obamacare. Obamacare has come into force, and it hasn`t
wrecked their lives. Even though they may pretend that it`s wrecked other
people`s lives, they have gone on regardless.

So they need something else. This story isn`t giving enough. So why
not launch another investigation.

Yes, there are fund-raising e-mails coming on the back of it, but even
without that, there`s a political need for it, which is that there is no
other reason to get people to go vote.

MELBER: Gene, what do you think of that theory of this as not only
fund-raising, but a fundamental mobilization strategy, regardless of the
facts underlying the tragedy?

right. I think we know the facts underlying the tragedy. I mean, look, we
should want to know more about State Department security, we should want to
make sure that our diplomats are safe overseas.

Beyond that, you know, they`re going to yell and scream about talking
points. They`re going to yell and scream about what was said after the
fact, ground that`s already been plowed, and that really is irrelevant to
the tragedy itself, that means nothing. It means nothing to moderate and
independent voters either, was it means a lot to the base.

So Benghazi has become this rallying cry, and as Richard said, they
need to keep that intensity up if Obamacare not going to do it, then maybe
Benghazi will do the trick.

MELBER: Right. And this idea that Hillary Clinton is in the
crosshairs, I just have never bought it. I just don`t see this being the
thing that brings her down.

And again, they`ve made it political -- her performance in the hearing
about this goes down, I think, as a much higher watermark for her than her
inquisitors. She was asked about it again today. I want to play that for
you, Richard. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Benghazi, the new investigation. Are you
satisfied with the answers and are you content with what you know what

course, there are a lot of reasons why, despite all of the hearings, all of
the information that`s been provided, some choose not to be satisfied and
choose to continue to move forward. That`s their choice, and I do not
believe there is any reason for it to continue in this way, but they get to
call the shots in the Congress.


WOLFFE: So, you know what`s not satisfying out of this is that four
good Americans died out of all of this. But even more unsatisfying, and
every member of Congress who really knows this story knows this very well,
that even more unsatisfying piece of it is this was an intelligence
operation, that went badly wrong.

So, unless Republicans have forgotten everything they`ve been telling
the American people since 9/11, at least, about sources and methods and
national security, and the need to protect the intelligence services of the
United States of America -- if they`ve forgotten all of that, then, yes,
they can pursue the story to their heart`s content and wonder why, oh, why
did the American ambassador to the U.N. not tell the full story about an
intelligence operation that went wrong.

Or they can just reveal sources and methods and pull out everything
that the CIA doesn`t want to tell everyone about everything that it does in
North America or every post-Arab spring country. It`s a farce.

They know it`s a farce when Eric Cantor goes out and says it`s about
politics and policy, there is no policy here. It is purely about the

MELBER: Right.

So, Gene, when you look at that, I want to be clear, we`re covering
this because tomorrow they`re going to hold a vote to create a select
committee. You mentioned intelligence, Richard, the only other select
committee that exists is about espionage and intelligence -- a worthwhile
select committee. They are turning the forces of government towards this.

ROBINSON: Yes, absolutely.

This is an official act. This is a big step for Congress to create
this special committee to do an investigation like this. The question is,
what kind of investigation will it be?

You know, Richard makes a good point. They actually, I think, they
are not going to uncover every rock to look what`s under it and reveal all
sorts of sources and methods. I think cooler heads will keep them from
doing that.

So, I think they will quickly turn to the politics of Benghazi.

MELBER: That`s where we started and that is where we end this
segment. We will look at the politics tomorrow.

Eugene Robinson and Richard Wolffe, thank you both for joining me

WOLFFE: Thank you. Appreciate it.

ROBINSON: Good to be here, Ari.

MELBER: Coming up, people are on edge in Albuquerque over a police
department accused of being too quick to use deadly force by Eric Holder`s
Justice Department. We will have the latest reason why that may be a
continuing cause for concern.

And she became the face for a movement to stand up to terrorists in
order to educate the girls of the world. Tonight, Malala is using her
powerful voice to bring back the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria. That`s


MELBER: In the spotlight tonight, the growing crisis in Nigeria, in
the northeast corner of the nation. It appears hundreds of people may have
been killed in an attack this week. A local official tells NBC News that
insurgents attacked on a busy market day saying, quote, "they went into the
market area and started shooting. They killed anybody on sight, killing
people, killing houses, burning shops and burning vehicles."

Meantime, in the kidnapping crisis that has captured the world`s
attention, Nigerian police today have offered a $300,000 award for any
information leading to the rescue of the 276 girls still missing after the
militant group, Boko Haram, abducted them from their school while they were
taking tests.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The new reward that was just announced from the
Nigerian government of $300,000 for information about the missing girls is
a start, but we need a lot more action.


MELBER: The Nigerian government has accepted assistance from the U.S.
and other nations, as we`ve reported. However, just a few hours ago,
Senator Susan Collins told MSNBC`s Chris Matthews, she thinks we need to do
a lot more.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, MAINE: It would be possible to put in some
special forces into Nigeria. Once we locate these girls and rescue them,
we ought to at least try. In Uganda, we have special forces that are going
after a criminal that is making soldiers out of young boys. Why shouldn`t
we have the same kind of effort to rescue these innocent schoolgirls before
they are either sold into slavery, forced into marriages at very young ages
and also, required to convert.


MELBER: Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl, who is a champion of
women`s education in her own country, was targeted by the Taliban in 2012.
You remember the story, of course. Gunman stormed her school bus, shot her
in the head. Malala survived and she`s still standing up to the Taliban
and she`s become a global activist for girls education. So earlier today,
she spoke about this crisis in Nigeria, with NBC chief correspondent, Bill


government hasn`t done enough so far. These girls have been unheard of for
three weeks.

in the beginning that everyone was asking the government to do something,
but the government was silent. But you see, after three weeks, when people
started speaking, when they made it a serious issue, they`ve taken action,
they`re asking the government. Now you`ve seen that Barack Obama has
spoke, David Cameron has spoke, and the Nigerian government is also going
to take a step. So I think when we speak, we can highlight this issue.

And I`m very happy that people have taken it serious and they are
highlighting it, but now I`m hopeful that they`ll find a solution for it
and they`ll soon solve it.

NEELY: If your voice could get through to these girls and more were
kidnapped over the weekend, if you had a message for them in their terrible
ordeal, what would you say to them?

YOUSAFZAI: I would like to tell my sisters that, never lose hope,
because we are with you. And always be hopeful, because God is with you.
All the people, they are praying for you and they are struggling for your
protection. And we want you to be free and we want you to live a normal
life, to go to school and to enjoy your life and to have equal rights
(INAUDIBLE). So never lose hope, because even if everyone remains silent,
I consider it my duty that I will speak, even if no one is listening to me,
but I will continue it. I will continue it, until people take an action.

NEELY: I have to ask you, Malala, why? Haven`t you done enough for
the cause of girls` education, both in your own country and around the
world. Why once again get involved in an issue like this, with dangerous
militants who may come to regard you as their enemy as well. Isn`t it just
time to be quiet and stay safe?

YOUSAFZAI: I have been through terrorism and I have learned from my
life that when you are speaking for truth and when you are speaking for
justice, then no one can defeat you. I`m hopeful that I will continue my
campaign and it will work. And I will achieve my goals and I will achieve
my dreams.

I consider Nigerian girls as my sisters, so it would be like someone
says, I don`t want to speak for my sister, even if my sister is in a
difficult situation, I should remain silent. So, I think that even if I --
if I remain silent, and we think for a second, oh, just ignore this issue,
then the danger is that this will spread. They have now abducted more than
400 -- 200 girls. Tomorrow they will do 400 and 500. And it will
continue. So the thing is, if we want to protect other girls as well, then
we have to speak.

NEELY: People have to take a stand?

YOUSAFZAI: Yes. People have to take a stand and they have to raise
the voices of these girls.

NEELY: You have crossed the border from Pakistan. You`re now living
in the UK. You don`t see any borders in the world for your cause, do you?
Whether it`s girls in Nigeria or girls in Pakistan or anywhere else? The
world is your cause?

YOUSAFZAI: I think this is just a small globe and we are all living
on this globe together with diversity and there are some girls who are
uneducated and I think we should speak up for these girls in this whole
world. Because this is our world and this is our home.


MELBER: That was the interview there with NBC`s Bill Neely.

Coming up, President Obama and top cop Eric Holder get the answer to
the question, what is wrong with the death penalty in this country?

And Albuquerque police are involved in another act of deadly force,
killing this man as protesters prepare for a city council showdown over
police tactics in their divided city.


ZACHARY SCHRIEBER, LAST WORD INTERN: Kevin Durant, star forward for
the Oklahoma city Thunder, accepted his first MVP award last night. The
seven-year NBA veteran thanked his teammates, his friends, and his family,
and then he thanked his mom.


KEVIN DURANT, NBA 2013-2014 MVP: You wake me up in the middle of the
night in the summer times, making me run up the hill, making me do push-
ups, streaming at me from the sideline of my gapes at eight or 9 years old.


SCHRIEBER: Like he does so often on the court, he finished his
remarks by passing for an assist.


DURANT: When you didn`t eat, you made sure we ate, you went to sleep
hungry, you sacrificed for us. You the real MVP.


SCHRIEBER: Mother`s day is this Sunday and that sure will be hard to

MELBER: Zack Schrieber, "Last Word" intern, you`re carrying on a
tradition that Lawrence started. How do you feel having done your read

SCHRIEBER: It felt pretty good. You know, it`s not like public
speaking where there`s other people in the room.

MELBER: It`s just me and you.

SCHRIEBER: Just two guys talking.

MELBER: Did you like your "Last Word" internship?

SCHRIEBER: I thought it was great. Everyone was so much fun to work
with. Great personalities. They kept it real.

MELBER: And as you may know, Kevin Durant`s mother is actually going
to be on this program tomorrow, so we can talk to her. I don`t know if
we`ll get to talk about the presentation there. And I just want people at
home to not get too nervous that there`s guest hosts and now the interns
are taking over. I don`t know what`s going to come next.

SCHRIEBER: Guest host, former guest host.

MELBER: That`s why you`ve got to keep watching.

Thanks for your internship and your work here. And we will be right



the death penalty in this country, we have seen significant problems.
Racial bias, an uneven application of the death penalty. All these, I
think, do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being
applied. And this situation in Oklahoma, I think, just highlights some of
the significant problems there. So I`ll be discussing with Eric Holder and
others, you know, to get me an analysis of what steps have been taken, not
just in this particular instance, but more broadly in this area.


MELBER: That was President Obama`s recent assignment for attorney
general Eric Holder. And today, a bipartisan panel just did part of that
work. After two years of study, the constitution project released a
comprehensive report on the didn`t across the U.S. just one week, of
course, after that botched 43-minute execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton

There`s no call for repealing the death penalty from this panel, which
included death penalty supporters, opponents, and criminal justice experts.
But there was a call for reform, such as better training for handling
forensic evidence, more proper training for those who perform these
executions, safeguarding against racial bias, such as redoubling efforts
for diverse jury pools, and better defending defendants` rights to
effective counsel.

Five states have repealed the death penalty since 2007, 32 states
still use the practice. And while the U.S. is one of the only democracies
that still considers this punishment acceptable at all, the death penalty
has long enjoyed widespread support in our country. No modern U.S.
president ever opposed the death penalty during his tenure. Though last
year, President Carter did call for a moratorium.

Here`s what Clayton Lockett`s stepmother had to say about the death
penalty when I interviewed her the day after her son died in that botched


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One thing is for sure, we are not administering
the drugs properly and people are being tortured to death and pronounced
dead and they are still alive and they are suffering great pain with these
drugs. And I think that it needs to be stopped, halted until we can look
into this thing and find out what`s really going on and get the proper way
to put people down.


MELBER: Joining me now is Mark Earley, a former attorney general for
Virginia, a Republican, who`s overseen 36 executions during his tenure and
was on this bipartisan panel.

Welcome and thanks for your time.

be with you.

MELBER: Let me start like this. As a nation, we have been doing this
for a long time. Why are we so bad at it?

EARLEY: Well, you know, that`s a great question. You know, for I
think most of my career, I was a strong supporter of the death penalty,
conceptually. I think when you get involved in it, as a lot of people do
when they get close to the system, you realize how complicated it is and
how difficult it is to administer.

You know, I`m kind of a small government conservative guy and I`m
often amazed at my fellow small government conservatives who think the
government can get this right, when they think the government can`t do so
many things right.

And I think what we saw in Oklahoma the past couple of weeks really,
you know, raises -- it`s symbolic of a larger issue. And that is
conceptually, you can make a strong argument for the death penalty. But
when you look at the way it`s administered today in America, I think it`s
disproportionate, it`s often unfair, and it may well be becoming

MELBER: Yes. And that, your report looks at that, in terms of the
way it`s practiced. When people saw the way that a botched execution went
down, it was horrific. And yet many of those drug companies and many other
entities don`t want to be involved in it, because they feel it`s horrific,
even when it`s done, supposedly, correctly. How important is that aspect
to the growing calls for us to rethink the practice?

EARLEY: I do think what we saw in Oklahoma, again, is sort of
symbolic of a larger issue across the board. You know, it`s not just the
problems with lethal injection, but in many parts of the United States, we
have defendants who have attorneys who are not really trained in death
penalty cases.

Death penalty defense is a very highly specialized technical area of
the law. If you`re going to have heart surgery, you don`t just want a
doctor, you want a heart surgeon. If you`re someone charged with a capital
offense, you have a right to a lawyer, but you need more than a lawyer, you
need someone very specialized in death penalty cases. And if you don`t get
that, you`re really lacking.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned that. And of course, that`s the other big
difference not only in this area of the law, but in this area of ending
people`s lives. What you have when you look at these studies of innocent
people or people who may not have been guilty on death row, you find that
in one study that was exhausted from the `70s, 2004, 2000 cases, 117 were

You know, the big problem there, that`s unlike any other punishment we
administered today as a civilization is, if we have innocent people here
and they`re killed, then it doesn`t ever matter. There`s no way to right

EARLEY: Right. And you know, the report today that was issued by the
constitution project is called irreversible error. And you know, it just
highlights what you said. If you make a mistake in this process, and
mistakes have been made. I mean, we know in the last several years, you
know, we`ve had over 150 people exonerated who were on death row. But when
you put an innocent person to death, that`s an irreversible error. And it
actually costs more to put someone to death than it does to keep them in
prison for life.

So I think it`s a system that a lot of Americans like myself, who have
supported for so long, really have serious questions about today, when you
recognize that in the administration of it. There`s a lot that can go
wrong, a lot that can be unfair. And the last thing we want to do in this
country is to put an innocent person to death at the hands of the

MELBER: Well put. And Mark Earley, appreciate you sharing your
expertise and some of the way your thinking`s evolved.

EARLEY: Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you.

Next, we`ll talk about some of I mentioned earlier in the broadcast.
Police shoot and kill a man in the city of Albuquerque, you can see him
right there, a city on edge over the use of deadly force. Stay with us.


MELBER: Today, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford reassured his supporters he
will be back from rehab in time for the upcoming election. Quote, "of
course I`m coming back and I`m going to kick butt," he said. He also told
to the Toronto sun, quote, "rehab is amazing, it reminds me of football

And we wish him a speeding recovery.


MELBER: Police in New Mexico`s largest city are again facing a swift
backlash after another deadly shooting on Saturday. After a long standoff,
officials say an Albuquerque police officer shot can killed a 50-year-old
retired air force colonel named Armand Martin. The standoff began after a
frantic call to 911. Police say Martin`s wife called the operator, "my
husband, he held a gun, pulled the gun on us," end quote.

The department`s released videos from before and after the shooting.
Now, a warning, they are disturbing. You can see here in the first video,
what was supposedly happening inside Armand`s home moments before he died.
Now, police say it was taken on a cell phone by Martin`s son. And the man
we see there brandishing a gun is Armand Martin. A voice is then heard
saying, get out, as the family runs outside.

And two other videos released by the police taken from an officer`s
helmet camera, Armand Martin is already dead, on the ground in his driveway
and you can see police approaching the body.

In the other video, officers handcuff Martin, even though he is
already dead, per department policy, his body is then removed, revealing
two guns and an ammunition clip. Police say Martin came out of his home
firing both guns, but have not released any video, showing that
particularly part of the incident.


MELBER: Monday night, protesters stormed a city council meeting,
demanding the police chief resign after a string of high-profile shootings,
this one being the latest. Attorney general Eric Holder had ordered a
review of the Albuquerque police.

And as "the LAST WORD" reported when those findings came out recently,
the DOJ found, quote, "a pattern or practice of excessive force."

Joining me now is Eugene O`Donnell, a former police officer and
professor of law of police study at John Jay College of criminal justice.

Welcome. There`s a lot we don`t know at this juncture about this
particular incident, but put this in the broader context and what`s
happening in this police department.

urgency to get about the business of fixing this department, which is
obviously very broken, and it obviously also shows how difficult it is to
build trust and support when you have this kind of record, 24 fatality in
four years.

We don`t know ultimately what will be the judgment in this case, but
the urgency is that people will not trust the police. They will not
support them, and will not believe them, even, if their accounts of these
things are not transparent and if they`re not out in front in changing
these series of broken policies, broken oversight, failure to train, and
ultimately a culture that is permissive about the use of deadly force.

MELBER: You say permissive. And let me read from that DOJ report.
Quote " PD officers too frequently use deadly force against people who pose
a minimal threat. Encounters between APD officers and people with mental
illness and in crisis too frequently result in a use of force or a higher
level of force than necessary.

Walk us through how a police department and sort of an institutional
culture level ends up like this being found that she is been using force
and hurting people when they are supposed to do that as a last resort.

O`DONNELL: Right. And this is an upside down situation, we want the
police to be peace officers. We wanted to bring restraint. We want them
to act rationally in the midst of people acting irrationally, people not
listening to commands, we want the police to be there rock solid, bring
good judgment there. That`s the imperative.

And unfortunately in Albuquerque, if by all accounts, including this
damning indictment by DOJ, it hasn`t been that at all, particularly in
response to the mentally ill, they were signaled out for exacerbating the

So, again, this incident ultimately will be judged -- I think the
police tried to do some positive things here like getting psychologists
involved, trying to reach out to the VA hospital. So maybe they`re
learning, but I don`t think people have much patience for this to continue
to pull out and need to get about the work of turning this around.

MELBER: And speak to the pressure, we`re looking at new footage of
people protesting, trying to get a measure of accountability, which we
would all say is good. On the flip side, nobody wants a police department
to be overly political responsive. They have to be, ideally, above

From your experience, you know, on the force, what is the right role
here for pressure on the police in these instances?

O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean, this is hurting the cops, because if you`re
a legitimate officer trying to value human life, this is a very confusing
time in Albuquerque for you. So the failure of leadership, the failure to
embrace this earlier, the failure to have guidelines that most major city
departments have is shocking at this point. So they need to get about the
business of changing those procedures. Building trust and confidence, so
the good police people in uniform can feel proud of their job, and really
buy in. That`s really what this is about.

You know, the best police departments in the country on restraint of
use of force, the cops believe the preservation of human life should be the
top priority. It is not because they`re commanded to or disciplined into
it, it`s because they actually believe it.

MELBER: You say they`re not disciplined into it, but isn`t that
weird, because we talk so much about deterrents when it comes to the
suspected criminals. Why aren`t we talking about that about some of these
police officers?

O`DONNELL: Well, there`s no question that there`s room for oversight
and some people should not be in this organization and some of the
recruiting has been cited as a problem. So there are larger issues.

But ultimately, I think, in day-in, day-out policing, you get the good
police people. You make them the examples. You try to emulate their
conduct, try to emulate their restraint, try to make that the definition of
the Albuquerque police department, and push aside these bad actors and
these bad incidents.

MELBER: Right.

You are here, Eugene O`Donnell gets tonight`s "LAST WORD." Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

MELBER: I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell. Thanks for

And Chris Hayes is up next.


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