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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, June 9th, 2014

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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
June 9, 2014

Guest: Louise Lucas, Jennifer Wang

ARI MELBER, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Some Republicans are so desperate to stop
400,000 people from getting health care, they`re willing to risk at least
the appearance of political bribes -- legally.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: Folks have to understand that if we
don`t take this money, we are going to pay double.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans have a new theater in their war against
Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This Medicaid expansion battle.

MCAULIFFE: To provide health care coverage for up to 400,000 Virginians.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Democratic governor`s efforts to expand Medicaid
in that state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it is a Democratic lawmaker who happens to be
right in the middle of the battlefield.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had never seen something like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a lot of fallout here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: State Senator Phil Puckett decided to vacate his
seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a Democratic state senator who`s resigning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tipping the balance of power in the state legislature
into Republican hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republicans, of course, are thrilled because this
changes the calculus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With his resignation, it goes from 20-20 to 20-19.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The timing is very suspicious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have been some rumblings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Puckett`s departure comes amid reports that he was
lured into resigning by the GOP.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seems very transactional in nature.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In an effort to stop Medicaid expansion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats are furious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Virginia GOP denies any quid pro quo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s raised a lot of questions about how business
operates in Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Refusing the Medicaid expansion.

MCAULIFFE: To provide health care coverage for up to 400,000 Virginians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Denies coverage to 400,000 people in Virginia.

MCAULIFFE: These 400,000 Virginians are still going to go to an emergency
room. They will be treated. Somebody will pay for that. That cost will
be borne by our businesses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republicans, of course, are thrilled because this
changes the calculus.

MCAULIFFE: It makes absolutely no sense.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: Good evening to you. I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
How can you tell when the Affordable Care Act is working? Here`s the
political answer. When Republicans don`t want to talk about health care.

Even after all those repeal votes, as the mid-terms approach, you know what
hasn`t turned out to be a good campaign slogan? No Medicaid money for my
state.

And yet even as Republicans dial down that particular message, they are
stuck here tonight with their position on repeal, and that`s key of course
to firing up their base for November turnout. And that is why you may have
seen Mitch McConnell ducking questions about the ACA exchange working in
his state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Should Kynect be dismantled?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I think that`s unconnected
to my comments about the overall question here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: As the "Courier-Journal" explained this weekend, from McConnell,
when the clip you saw there, the Senate minority leader continued attacks
on Obamacare`s proposed risk because the law`s implementation under Kynect
has produced 421,000 enrollees in the Bluegrass State and more public
support than opposition.

And it`s the same reason that Speaker Boehner has gotten shy about
announcing any GOP alternatives here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think you`ll see
Republicans come forward with a plan to replace Obamacare.

We`re building a consensus. We`ll see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That is the background you need for what`s going on in the biggest
political story today in Virginia, a state which just capped an off-year
governor`s race last November where it often felt like Obamacare itself was
on the ballot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: March 23rd, 2010, Obamacare is signed into law. Minutes later,
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli files suit in federal court to stop it.
Terry McAuliffe supported Obamacare.

MCAULIFFE: We`ve got to have it.

KEN CUCCINNELLI (R), THEN-GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Ken Cuccinelli,
candidate for governor, and I sponsored this ad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And to be clear that Republican candidate, an attorney general who
literally filed the first suit against ACA in March 2010, he lost to
Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who`s now been working on his campaign promise to
expand Medicaid in Virginia. He placed it in his budget proposal for a
fiscal term that actually starts next month.

Republicans control the state house and the state Senate was split 20-20
until, as we`ve been reporting, until today. That`s when a Democratic
state senator resigned his seat, giving Republicans a one-seat edge and
temporary control of the chamber.

The man who upended Virginia politics today, Phillip Puckett, may also have
upended Obamacare`s expansion in the state. That is a humanitarian
priority for 400,000 Virginians. And it carries some extra political
impact with all the Washington insiders who live in the state and follow
its politics.

Now, according to reports, Puckett struck a sweetheart deal with
Republicans to vacate his seat and take a plum leadership position on a
state commission that doles out money from tobacco settlements. Now, by
resigning Puckett also clears the way for his daughter to receive Senate
confirmation to continue a judgeship. The Senate had declined to do so
because of a policy against confirming senators` family members.

There has been a huge backlash, as you may have heard, to this bizarre day
in Virginia state politics, and questions about whether this kind of deal
would constitute illegal bribery. Puckett now says he wouldn`t even take
the famous commission job.

It is too early to tell whether the alleged deal achieved these
politicians` narrow goals. But the broader goal of expanding health care
remains stymied yet again by some very short-term politicking.

Joining me now, Virginia State Senator Louise Lucas and Ezra Klein, editor
in chief of Vox.com.

Welcome to you both.

Senator Lucas, walk us through what happened today, what we learned about
politics here in Virginia, and how much of this is going to then affect
Medicaid expansion.

STATE SEN. LOUISE LUCAS (D), VIRGINIA: Sure. Well, you know, we only
found out about Senator Puckett`s resignation late Saturday afternoon, and
then on Sunday, of course, we were able to get that confirmed. And I can
tell you I was just absolutely shocked and furious, to say the least,
because he had no conversation with any of his colleagues in the Senate
Democratic caucus.

In fact, when we left the session everyone said we`re going to hold tight,
we`re going to get Medicaid expansion. We thought he was every bit as much
in favor of it as the rest of us. But then, all of a sudden, this thing
comes up about whether or not his daughter`s going to get a judgeship
because he`s in the state Senate.

And I can look back and sometimes over the last 23 years I`ve been in the
Senate, and I`m sure I could pull up at least a couple of examples where an
individual was appointed to the bench and it was a son-in-law of one of the
members of the general assembly.

But let me tell you the reason why this comes as so painful to us. Because
the GOP now is going to do the power grab. They`re going to take back all
the chairmanship and then the Senate will go from having what looks like
Virginia with African-American women and men and all of us being able to
chair committees to now, it will go back to all white males who are going
to be the chair of our committees. But the reason why I am particularly
furious about this is because Senator Puckett was a targeted senator.

And it took a lot of money for us to get him re-elected. And most of us
took money out of our campaign war chest to put into the Senate Democratic
caucus so --

MELBER: Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: So, Senator Lucas, let me ask you, why do you think he resigned?

LUCAS: He resigned because he thought he was going to get this job with
the Tobacco Commission and his daughter was going to go on the bench.

But what he`s done in trying to secure a job for himself and a judgeship
for his daughter, he has thrown half a million people in Virginia,
literally a half a million people in Virginia who are in the coverage gap,
thrown them under a moving train, bus, if you will, because these people
are not going to have any kind of health care coverage and a lot of these
people are going to die.

I mean, it just seems unconscionable to me that a person could be so
selfish as to want to secure something for themselves or a member of their
family and throw 400,000 people under the bus.

MELBER: I hear you on that. And that`s I think why people have been
captivated by this story, also frustrated by it if these allegations are
borne out.

Ezra, "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that Democratic budget
negotiators in Virginia have emerged from a closed-door meeting saying
they`ve agreed to pass a budget without, without expanding the health care
coverage to those 400,000 low-income Virginians that the senator was just
mentioning. McAuliffe`s top priority, "The Post" reports, they do hope to
take up Medicaid expansion and some sort of special session.

Ezra, your thoughts on what we`re learning here about the politics of
Obamacare in Virginia.

EZRA KLEIN, VOX.COM EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: I don`t know how much we`re learning
actually about the politics of it as much as we`re learning about the bare
knuckle and often very human politics that we see in legislatures in
between members.

You know, something I think that is important and the senator would be able
to talk about it with more expertise than I can, is that we are still in
Virginia headed for a somewhat similar collision as we were before. You
still have -- previously you had the Senate controlled by Democrats,
although very, very narrowly. You had the governorship in the hands of
terry McAuliffe. And you had the House controlled by Republicans.

Now, you have the House and Senate controlled by Republicans and the
governorship in the hands of McAuliffe. You still need ultimately for
there to be some kind of cooperation between these groups if the state is
going to be governed going forward.

You could have even with the Senate going to Republicans I believe some
kind of government shutdown if McAuliffe doesn`t budge on Medicaid. So I
think there`s a lot in this left to play out. There wasn`t a smooth
passageway for Medicaid prior to Puckett`s resignation.

And it`s not obvious to me that if McAuliffe wants to make a knockout drag-
out fight of this, that there`s a smooth passageway for Republican
priorities now that he has resigned. I think there`s still very much a war
to be fought here and given that we`re in the 2014 election season, the
outcome of that war I think is going to be very, very, very telling about
the politics of Medicaid in Virginia.

MELBER: Yes. Senator Lucas, speak to that and to I guess the theory we`re
unpacking. We are doing national news here. So, sometimes we`re looking
at how it plays out nationally with this law.

But in your view how much of this was specifically Obamacare versus just as
you were mentioning chairmanships in the larger fights we see in any state
legislature?

LUCAS: I would say that it`s all of the above. And the reason I say this
is because this is the kind of shenanigans that has been going on ever
since I was elected in 1991. They`ve continued to try to grab all of the
power to make sure that they could get their agendas passed.

And the thing that troubles me is you have Speaker Howell, you have Chris
Jones, you have Kurt Cox, and you have that gang of -- over in the House of
Delegates. We gave them four proposals to consider for Medicaid expansion.

We were willing to compromise. But there was no coming to a meeting of the
minds, no sitting down talking about it. It was just no, no, no, we don`t
want it, we`re not going to discuss it, don`t confuse this with the facts.

It doesn`t matter to them that we`re exporting $5.5 million a day of
Virginia`s money back to Washington, D.C., because we`re all peeing into
that pot.

MELBER: Right.

LUCAS: We`re not receiving our funds back because we have not expanded
Medicaid. So, now, we`re going to continue to have to spend $5.5 million a
day, whether we take Medicaid expansion or not.

So, it just makes no sense to me that they`re talking about being fiscally
responsible and they`re going to allow $5.5 million a day to get exported
out of Virginia? Oh, no. This is more about power grabbing than it is
about anything else.

It`s -- yes, it`s Obamacare. They`re saying we don`t want Obamacare, which
is the reason they don`t want Medicaid expansion. But I cannot believe and
especially in the case with Senator Puckett, he has 20,000 people in his
district without health care.

MELBER: Let me go to Ezra just briefly. How about the dollars and cents
argument?

KLEIN: It`s huge. The Medicaid expansion is an incredible deal for
states. Currently it`s being funded by the federal government 100 percent.
After the first three years it goes down to 90 percent. Currently every
state gets Medicaid and they intend to get less than a 60 percent match.

So, you`re dealing with something here where any state that does not take
it is just shoveling money to the federal government and getting nothing
back. And that`s why you`ve seen in Republican states like Ohio, like in
Florida, you`ve seen Republican governors in Arizona working really hard to
get -- to find some way to get their legislatures to take that Medicaid
expansion.

The problem we often find that what we`re seeing in Virginia is state
Republican legislators are pretty radical, much more radical than even
national ones. So, you have a highly, highly ideological unwillingness to
do it. And so, the state ends up getting absolutely fleeced.

MELBER: Right. And throwing that kind of money out the door at the local
level, that may be Republican in some of these states. It`s certainly not
conservative. State Senator Lucas and Ezra Klein, thank you both for
joining me tonight.

KLEIN: Thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you so much for having me on.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Coming up, President Obama joins Elizabeth Warren to try to help millions
of Americans who have a lot of student loan debt. Helping them might even
help the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your big oil companies will
go to bat for you. If you`re a student, good luck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And how did the federal government end up having to care for 1,000
children on the border with Mexico who don`t have anywhere to go? The
president has declared it an emergency. An important story we`ll bring you
tonight.

And one of Chris Christie`s closest advisors had to finally face public
questions in front of the panel today, looking at the bridge scandal that
just won`t go away. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Up next, President Obama gets behind a big push by Senator
Elizabeth Warren to help millions of Americans carrying massive student
loan debt.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: These young people didn`t go to
the mall and run up charges on a credit card. They worked hard. They
stayed in class. They learned new skills. And they borrowed what they
needed to pay for an education.

OBAMA: More tax bills for millionaires or lower student loan bills for the
middle class. This should be a no-brainer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Today, President Obama jumped on Senator Elizabeth Warren`s
student loan relief bandwagon. You can see him there calling on Congress
to pass her legislative proposal to enable the refinancing of student
loans. He also signed an executive order that would let millions of
borrowers cap their payments at 10 percent of their monthly income.

Now, it might be tempting for some to think of all this as another
political ploy for 2014, getting young people out to vote. But the effects
of student loan debt do extend far beyond just young men and women who pay
the bills.

As Senator Warren explained last week in an interview with "The Huffington
Post`s" Ryan Grimm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: It`s starting to be so much debt that it`s dragging down the
economy. The reports are starting to pile up from the fed, from the
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, from the department -- from the
Treasury Department. And what it shows is that young people are not buying
homes at the rate we would anticipate.

They`re not starting businesses at the rate we`d anticipate. They`re not
buying cars. They`re just not doing the economic things we should expect
them to do because they are so burdened with debt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Dorian Warren, professor of
political science at Columbia University, and Jennifer Wang, a policy and
advocacy manager at Young Invincibles who was at today`s event at the White
House.

Welcome to you both.

DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Ari.

JENNIFER WANG, YOUNG INVINCIBLES: Thank you.

MELBER: Jennifer, let me start with you. You were there. We want to hear
about that. And also the point that Senator Warren was just speaking to,
which is you can look at this as a constituency issue and say people go to
college or grad school, our young people have this problem, or you can also
look at it as an economic issue that has what she`s arguing is a national
drag here.

WANG: You know, that`s absolutely right. We hear from young people every
day that this is an issue that is really affecting their lives. I mean, we
hear that they have trouble buying homes, trouble buying cars, and it`s
definitely affecting young people everywhere.

And just today, you know, we heard from a young man, Andy McCracken, who is
actually the young man who introduced President Obama today. He told us
that this policy, this pay-as-you-earn policy that the president is
expanding would mean so much to his own life.

He shared that under standard repayment, his monthly student loan payments
would have been close to $900 a month. Under this new policy, he would be
paying $200 a month.

And you can imagine for a young adult that $700 being all the world, and
Andy actually shared with us that that $700 is what`s keeping him from
being able -- it`s what`s keeping him from having to move back with his
parents and it`s allowing him to be out on his own.

MELBER: Wow. Dorian, when you look at the politics on this, debt is not
something you have to explain, right? People have a picture in their heads
or in their pocketbooks of what debt is. And yet the national political
discussion of debt can get pretty weird.

Listen to Speaker Boehner talking in the context of our nation`s debt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: Their government takeover of health care, their national energy
tax, their card check bill will kill even more jobs in America and pile
more debt on the backs of our kids and our grandkids.

Now, we`ve got this budget that -- it`s real simple. It spends too much,
it taxes too much, and it clearly borrows too much from our kids and
grandkids.

We are squandering the future for our kids and our grandkids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Now, I don`t want to be unfair to Speaker Boehner`s little rhetorical
maneuver here. But there is something really wrong with talking so much in
the hypothetical about this future debt, nebulous debt for our kids or
grandkids, and not trying to do right by the fiscal policy for the debt for
our actual kids and grandkids and students who are here today.

WARREN: So, it`s good to ground ourselves in some numbers for this
conversation -- $1.2 trillion in student debt, 40 million people, 40
million students, or former students with debt. One in seven defaulting on
their student loans --

MELBER: Wow.

WARREN: -- two years after graduation.

So, this is an enormous problem. But it`s also an opportunity in two ways.
One, think about that; 40 million students or former students with debt.
That`s a lot of youngish people that can be -- for whom this issue is
salient and could possibly be organized, especially in a midterm year.

But second, what`s really important about this administration rule is that
for people like me and you, who went to grad school or law school to engage
in public service and not necessarily go to Wall Street to make a lot of
money, this rule matters a lot for those people who want to serve their
country in some way, but if they come out of college with a lot of debt
they think twice about going to graduate school.

MELBER: Yes, I think that`s an important point. It also goes to what do
we want to reward, what do we want to do in terms of the implications of
where these people go?

Real quick, Jennifer, I know you were there, so you`ll hear this for a
second time, but take a listen to the president today in a moment of some
outrage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I don`t know, by the way, why folks aren`t more outraged about
this. I`m going to take a pause out of my prepared text. You would think
that if somebody like me has done really well in part because the country`s
invested in them that they wouldn`t mind at least paying the same rate as a
teacher or a nurse. There`s not a good economic argument for it, that they
should pay a lower rate. It`s just clout. That`s all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What did you think of what he said there?

WANG: You know, the president`s absolutely right. It`s very ironic that,
you know, young people are seeing their parents, their families able to
refinance their mortgages but, you know, our debt in our generation,
student debt, we can`t refinance that debt. And he`s absolutely right. I
mean, these solutions that we see here, you know, Senator Warren`s
refinancing proposal, these are common sense solutions that allow our
generation to have the same opportunities that the generation before us
had.

MELBER: Right. And to do so in an economic environment that obviously
hasn`t been very hospitable either that would seem to make some sense.

Dorian Warren and Jennifer Wang, thank you both.

WARREN: Thank you.

WANG: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, Jan Brewer versus the Obama administration again, and
this time it`s over what the federal government should do with about 1,000
children on the border with Mexico.

And later, we have an update on Lawrence O`Donnell from Lawrence O`Donnell.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: In the spotlight tonight, an urgent humanitarian situation.
That`s what President Obama called the influx of unaccompanied children
crossing the border into Texas`s Rio Grande Valley. Since October, more
than 47,000 children have been caught crossing the southwest border without
parents. That is a 92 percent increase from a similar period just last
year.

Now, in a conference call earlier today, White House officials countered
any suggestion that the surge is because of the administration`s
immigration policy, saying instead almost all of these minors are fleeing
because of increased violence in their home countries of Guatemala, El
Salvador, and Honduras.

The influx is so overwhelming that the border patrol is struggling to meet
its goal of trying to overturn all migrant children to the Department of
Health and Human Services within 72 thundershowers, where the children are
then brought into shelters until they are reunited with family and await
any kind of removal hearings.

Now, over the past few days border patrol officials have transported over
1,000 children from Texas to the processing center in Nogales, Arizona, and
have even brought women and children to bus stations in Phoenix to make
room in those shelters.

Arizona`s Republican Governor Jan Brewer voiced her outrage at the effect
of all this in her state. She wrote in a new letter to President Obama,
"This unwarranted operation is another disturbing example of a deliberate
failure to enforce border security policies and repair a broken immigration
system. I urge you to end this dangerous and unconscionable policy
immediately and instead take actions to fulfill the federal government`s
fundamental responsibility of protecting our homeland by securing our
nation`s borders."

Now, joining me now directly from Nogales, Arizona, is NBC News
correspondent Mark Potter and MSNBC contributor and a fellow at the LBJ
School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Victoria DeFrancesco
Soto.

Welcome to you both.

Mark, what is the latest on what you can report from the ground there?

MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I`ll show you where we are.
This is the U.S. Border Patrol station at Nogales, Arizona. It`s been a
pretty busy place over the last few days.

Over the weekend and today we`ve seen a number of buses coming ins carrying
unaccompanied children and also going out, taking them to those HHS
shelters that you were talking about. We understand that there are about
1,000 kids in the facility right now. It`s a rough number told to us by
consular officials. They`re sleeping on cots. There are some showers.
Some amenities. But it`s a pretty rudimentary setup. Some child advocates
and immigrant advocates are saying that these are certainly no conditions
upon which you should put children.

But the consular officials that we talked to from El Salvador and Honduras
said that they actually thought that given the circumstances the border
patrol was doing the best it could, was doing a pretty good job in caring
for these children, again, under the circumstances. So it depends on who
you`re talking to.

We`re told they can hold as many as 1,500 kids in here at a time. They`re
not at that peak yet. And again, as they bring kids in and process them
and try to meet that 72-hour deadline, they then are also taking other kids
out to go to other places, including potentially those military bases that
have been set up in Texas and California, now Oklahoma to hold those kids.
Or maybe they`re put in the care of their parents until they go face those
removal hearings, those immigration hearings you were also talking about.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Yes. And Victoria, what you`re looking at here,
and reason why we`re talking about it as a humanitarian crisis, is these
children, these minors unaccompanied, have a very tough road with whatever
trip they`re making and then it`s pretty tough when they get inside the
U.S. here as they`re processed. Walk us through why this is happening both
from the Central American perspective of what these minors are fleeing and
then what we do with them when they get here.

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, NBC LATINO CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, Ari. So this
recent influx that we`re seeing of children who are immigrants, they`re not
your traditional economic immigrants from Mexico that are coming over to
just seek better jobs. These are immigrants who are technically classified
as refugees, folks who are leaving their homeland, Honduras, El Salvador,
Guatemala, because of the political violence in their country.

So if they stay in their homeland, they will suffer bodily harm or
potentially death. So that is why they make that cost-benefit analysis and
decide to trek across Mexico and then trek across the border in order to
enter the United States.

So yes, we`re talking about immigrants, but we really need to parse the
difference between refugees and immigrants. And so when Jan Brewer`s
talking about, well, this is an indication that it`s Obama`s fault and a
broken immigration system, it is part of a broken immigration system. But
we are comparing apples to oranges if we`re talking about the general
immigration system we tend to think about.

MELBER: Right. Let me go back to Mark on that system itself and then come
back to you on some of those politics which have also been active today.

But on the system itself, Mark, what is the process for these children? At
what point if someone`s watching at home and saying well, wait a minute, if
they`re escaping perhaps a violent scenario or dictatorship why can`t they
get some sort of asylum or protection? How does that work?

POTTER: Well, one thing I want to say about that, there`s no doubt that
everything that she is saying is true about the situation down there. But
we are also hearing that there is very active recruiting on the part of
smuggling organizations trying to bring these people in and the children
that we have talked to and that the consular officials have talked to are
saying that the main reason that they are coming up here is to be reunited
with their families.

The families came here first, now they`re trying to bring the children up.
And in some form smugglers are being paid to do that. You can argue as to
why that`s happening. But that`s another scenario, a very active scenario
that we`re hearing about from the border patrol, from the children
themselves, and other people.

And so that`s something that needs to be added to the equation. This just
blew up. It didn`t blow up -- it`s taken time but it blew up big this year
because there are rumors in Central America that this is the time to come,
if you want to come into the United States do it now, you`ll probably be
picked up and taken to your families.

MELBER: Yes, and the numbers, Mark -- let me jump in. The numbers bear
that out. We have up on the screen some of that spike. Why exactly that`s
happening is a question.

So on the politics, Victoria, I do want to say that one of the allegations
here from Senator Cruz recently talking to Breitbart was he was saying one
of the consequences we`re seeing on the border is a humanitarian crisis, a
direct consequence of Obama`s lawlessness. Parents think if I send my
child to the U.S. my child will have amnesty. That`s what the president of
the U.S. has said. Senator Cruz says.

Respond to that, if you will, in Mark`s point that there are these rumors
out there.

SOTO: Yes, there are absolutely rumors, and what we see is a number of
factors that account for immigrants coming over to the United States. But
to say it is the fault of the president, I mean, let`s look at why we have
not fixed our broken immigration system. We hobble along. And this is why
we`re dealing with the humanitarian crisis that we`re dealing with right
now. If we were to pass a comprehensive immigration reform.

And Ari, we`re almost at the one-year anniversary of the gang of eight
passing immigration reform, and we still have not seen anything done, then
we would be able to address issues like this. Because the gang of eight
immigration reform had for political refugees, asylees and general
immigrants. So the ball is in the Congress`s court right now.

MELBER: Yes. And I appreciate that point and that goes tie policy
solution at least long term while we obviously are also keeping our eye on
what is a short-term crisis for a lot of these children and their families.

NBC`s Mark Potter and Victoria Defrancesco Soto. Thank you both.

SOTO: Thank you.

POTTER: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, Melissa Harris-Perry attended this weekend`s memorial
for Maya Angelou alongside the First Lady and Oprah. And Melissa joins me
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: There was a surprise appearance on MSNBC today from someone many
of you have been waiting to see, Lawrence O`Donnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR, NOW WITH ALEX WAGNER SHOW: Lawrence, it is
great to see you. How are you feeling?

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR, THE LAST WORD: Well, you know, I`m not
more bearded than ever. I had in college, Alex, you should have seen it,
in those days and in my early 20s, it was one of those "duck dynasty"
beards. It was completely out of control. We`re going for more a Hugh
Jackman kind of thing here. It`s totally different.

WAGNER: You wear convalescence well.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

WAGNER: It`s a good color on you, convalescence.

O`DONNELL: Look, it`s been two months, and there`s been some difficult
parts of it. But the truth of it is, it has been a pretty great two
months. As you know, I am not a workaholic. I am not the first one in the
building every morning.

WAGNER: But you`re the last one out. And that`s all that matters.

O`DONNELL: I can claim that, yes. But you know, it`s been a real clearing
of the head.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I`m sure you`re waiting to hear what he`s going to do with that
fully clear head. As Lawrence recounted during a recent appearance right
here on "the Last Word." He should be back in the chair this month. So
stay tuned for that.

Now, coming up next, testimony about the New Jersey bridge scandal from the
highest-ranking official yet in Chris Christie`s office, his chief of
staff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: There is now a second federal grand jury impaneled to investigate
the George was Washington bridge lane closures and the potential
involvement of the Chris Christie administration. That grand jury is
operating in addition to the standing grand jury in New Jersey where
federal prosecutors have been investigating a range of issues. This is
according to a new report in the "Wall Street Journal."

Meanwhile, there was new testimony today before the New Jersey
legislature`s investigative committee, this time from Christie`s chief of
staff, Kevin O`Dowd. He supervised Bridget Kelly. And today he recounted
how she denied planning those closures and that on December 13th she shared
this e-mail exchange she had about Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich and those
famous traffic problems during that time. And then O`Dowd said something
important under oath. He said today that governor Christie was more in the
loop about all this than he let on at the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN O`DOWD, GOV. CHRISTIE`S CHIEF OF STAFF: She does hand me a document
that I believe is the September 12th e-mail.

ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Did you tell the governor
before his press conference that Bridget Kelly had a contemporaneous e-mail
while the lane closings were going on.

O`DOWD: I did.

WISNIEWSKI: You told him that one of his staff members knew about the lane
closings while it was going on?

O`DOWD: I showed him the e-mail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That right there is pretty important. That sound we may hear
again because governor Christie did not acknowledge that e-mail during his
famous press conference on the same day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I`ve made it very clear to everybody
on my senior staff that if anyone had any knowledge about this that they
needed to come forward to me and tell me about it and they`ve all assured
me that they don`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That led to Kevin O`Dowd, Christie`s chief of staff, to admit
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WISNIEWSKI: At the point in time that the governor makes his statement,
there is an e-mail that a member of his senior staff, Bridget Kelly is
aware of that discusses the lane closures and that she received it
contemporaneous with the lane closures.

O`DOWD: That`s correct.

WISNIEWSKI: Does that contradict his statement?

O`DOWD: A plain read of this, it seems to be inconsistent. The governor
was aware, as I testified to earlier, I handed him that document prior to
that press conference..

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me now is Brian Murphy, an MSNBC contributor and former
managing editor of politicsnj.com. Good evening.

BRIAN MURPHY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: How are you?

MELBER: I`m great. When you hear that language coming from what is
supposed to be a very friendly witness to Governor Christie, it seems to be
inconsistent, a more negative way to say that is governor Christie got
caught lying. If you believe that testimony today.

MURPHY: Right. And I think -- and it`s important that this even comes
out. You know, we waited for an entire day through testimony, and then he
finally says at the end of the day it`s been very inconsistent. Very
friendly way of saying it`s a lie. From a man who is by all accounts
apparently about to be re-nominated by the governor as his nominee to be
the attorney general. So he`s not only performing today to try to manage
bridgegate issues but he`s also trying not to step in too much trouble is
he`ll have -- he`ll be able to win votes from the senators who are sitting
on that committee listening to his testimony today.

MELBER: Right. Which goes to the question why did he give up this much on
governor Christie?

MURPHY: Well, he`s under oath. He`s under oath and he`s already had to
provide documents under a subpoena. Now, the committee members don`t think
that they`ve gotten everything. In fact, there`s this important exchange
at the beginning of the day where there are references in the master
report, this report that the governor paid for with taxpayer dollars and
had prepared to exonerate himself.

There are e-mails and text messages referenced in the document that weren`t
turned over to the committee. This became an issue in the morning hours
where the chairman of the committee says we had asked for this under a
subpoena . We never got them. Why do I have to read about it in the
master report? The committee members don`t think they`ve gotten everything
that`s out there. And this goes to there`s a difference between a subpoena
and a warrant. They don`t have warrants. They haven`t executed warrants.
So they`ve gotten stuff kind of voluntarily turned over.

MELBER: Another interesting thing, I know you were there today, is when
O`Dowd talked about Bridget Kelly`s credibility. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DOWD: I said Bridget, I need to ask you about the lane closures. I
think she said something like sure, what about? I said, did you have
anything to do with closing the lanes at the George Washington bridge? She
responded with absolutely not.

WISNIEWSKI: Did you find her denial credible?

O`DOWD: I did.

WISNIEWSKI: Why?

O`DOWD: Bridget Kelly is someone that I had worked with and known for four
years, someone who I thought we highly of. Hard-working, energetic, loyal.
Someone who I believed and trusted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What is the significance in your view of him saying he didn`t
believe it at the time? Because of course we know she was involved.

MURPHY: That`s the nicest thing that anyone has ever said about Bridget
Kelly from the Christie administration in months. I think it is -- it`s
interesting because they`re trying to figure out how -- and sitting behind
him, over Kevin O`Dowd`s shoulder today, is Bill Stepien and his attorney.
The other person who`s under fairly significant legal threat along with
Kelly.

It`s important because they`re trying to find a way to contain -- to
contain the damage and deal with the fact that it`s a very small office in
Trenton. People keep bringing up the picture of the little map of the
governor`s office. O`Dowd and Kelly`s offices are right across from each
other. It`s very, very hard to believe for people who are at all familiar
with Trenton, it`s hard to believe that if Kelly knew about this and ran
this operation or allowed it to go on that there aren`t other people in
that office who know about it simply because of the physical proximity that
you would be in that space.

MELBER: Yes. And that I think goes to some of the difficult pushback
they`ve been doing, which is having parts of the Christie administration
tar her, sometimes in sexist terms as we`ve reported. Other parts say she
was so credible at the time and she`s with such an "a" student that we just
let her run off and do this. Who was she doing it for? That`s a question
that remains.

Brian Murphy, thank you for joining us.

MURPHY: Thanks very much.

MELBER: Coming up, Melissa Harris-Perry joins me with a major tribute to
Maya Angelou.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Melissa Harris-Perry got to know Maya Angelou and was at her
moving memorial this weekend. That is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Family, friends, and admirers all over the world gathered on
Saturday to remember Dr. Maya Angelou. And for the many thousands gathered
at Wake Forest University and watching a live broadcast online, the
tributes offered a testament to the breadth of Maya Angelou`s tremendous
impact. They will never forget how she made them feel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every day we should
look into our sisters` eyes and our brother`s face, to all our nation, and
say good morning. As long as we have time, we should keep the courage to
begin again. That`s what you did. And how blessed we are because of it.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: The first time I read
"phenomenal woman," I was struck by how she celebrated black women`s beauty
like no one had ever dared to before. As a young woman I needed that
message. Dr. Angelou`s words sustained me on every step of my journey.
Through long years on the campaign trail where at times my very womanhood
was dissected and questioned. She paved the way for me and Oprah and so
many others just to be our good old black woman selves.

OPRAH WINFREY, TV PERSONALITY: She says, I want you to stop and say thank
you, because whatever it is, you have the faith to know that God has put a
rainbow in the clouds. No matter the time of day or night or the
situation, she was always there for me to be the rainbow. The loss I feel
I cannot describe. It`s like something I have never felt before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And in a rare glimpse Maya Angelou`s son guy showed the apple
didn`t fall far from the tree as he recited a mother`s day sonnet that he`d
written long ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUY JOHNSON, DR. MAYA ANGELOU`S SON: Others have been led by its
incandescence to be more than mere flesh and bone, to love and be loved is
its true essence. For only the heart can change this world of stone.
Thus, fortune graces me like none other, for this star, this nova, is my
mother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me now, a colleague who knew Maya Angelou personally and
attended Saturday`s memorial, Melissa Harris-Perry. Good evening to you.

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR, MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY SHOW: Hi. Good
evening, Ari.

MELBER: That is moving, moving stuff, when you see people celebrating a
person of this magnitude. It makes you think a lot about what kind of life
you want to lead or when`s out there. What stood out for you at the
memorial.

HARRIS-PERRY: It was a really tough one for me. Dr. Angelou was my
college adviser. I worked for her as a student assistant. Actually,
during the years that she read the -- wrote and read on the pulse of
morning for President Clinton`s inauguration. And in fact, that part that
we heard there from President Clinton was him quoting Dr. Angelou back to
herself in that moment, that line about looking into your brother`s face
and saying good morning.

And for me, being in Wake Forest chapel, in Waite Chapel, knowing that I am
returning there in two weeks as a faculty member, and going back because I
had every intention of being on the faculty with my beloved mentor Dr.
Angelou and then finding that she is now gone, but of course league leaving
us with the legacy for all of us to inherit.

MELBER: Absolutely. You mentioned that poem that was obviously very
important to a lot of people and symbolic when she was picked to do that at
President Clinton`s inaugural. And she told the "Washington Post" back
then it`s fitting that the president asked a woman and a black woman to
write a poem about the tenor of the times, it might be symbolic that black
women when looked at are on the bottom of the graph. It`s probably fitting
that a black woman try to speak to the alienation, the abandonment and to
the hope of healing those affliction that`s have befallen so many
Americans.

I wonder, Melissa, there it almost sounds like if we think of the criticism
of identity politics as ideology through color alone there she`s talking
about color as a prism or an experience that allows many to relate to the
marginalized, a theme in her work.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, right. We have to remember that whatever else she
was, Dr. Angelou was an autobiography writer. She wrote in fact many
volumes of her autobiography beginning most famously with "I know why the
caged bird sings," which Oprah Winfrey talked about encountering. And if
you listen to how Oprah Winfrey talked about encountering that
autobiography and how First Lady Obama talked about encountering the kind
of autobiographical poetry of "phenomenal woman," it is a notion of the
specific story always meeting the universal.

As I said there and listened to people speak about Dr. Angelou, I realized
that I can quote the book of Maya in the way that I can quote books of the
bible. So people would say things that she had said so often to us that
they became part of who we are. And one of them is that we are more alike
than we are unalike and that nothing human can be alien to me. It`s a
reminder I sometimes give my team whenever we have to cover, for example,
mass shootings. Our rule on our team is we don`t call people monsters.
That what they do may be monstrous, but Dr. Angelou had taught me even as a
16, 17, 18-year-old that nothing human can be alien to me. Anything
horrible is something I also have inside of me and anything that is great I
also have inside of me.

MELBER: Yes. And you know, here on the "Last Word" team we were watching
the interview you did with her in 2012 and asking about how to advance
equality and one the things she said to you back was you do it with what
you`re doing with your words, she talked about her books and her speeches
and your work. You felt that in this memorial, people moved by a woman who
felt she could change minds and hearts just by reaching out, just by
communicating.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, and perhaps more than anyone else the First Lady. I
have to say I didn`t sit with literally the gold ticket holders. There
were a group of people who, you know, sort of have a public face and they
were sitting in one space. But I was sitting with my college girlfriends
and their husbands and our other friends, and I looked at my friend at one
point and said, does the First Lady knows there is a camera on? Because it
dealt us so in talking about Dr. Angelou, she became liberated free to say
some things we never quite heard her say, particularly that sort of be your
own little black girl self. It was extraordinary.

MELBER: Yes. And that is powerful.

Melissa Harris-Perry gets tonight`s last word. Thank you so much.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: And you can join Melissa on her show every Saturday and Sunday
morning, 10:00 a.m. to noon. Thank you for watching tonight, and Chris
Hayes is up next.


END

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