'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
June 19, 2014
Guest: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, John Morse
ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: So what happens when a Republican no longer
feels obligated to be against every single thing President Obama is for?
The Republican might start telling the truth, even on FOX News.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ongoing chaos in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama briefed reporters on his latest
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will
continue to increase our support to Iraqi security forces.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: American combat troops will not be sent.
OBAMA: American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House says about 300 advisers will.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three hundred military advisers to help advise the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this what the American people really want?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I have no direct objection to that
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It sounds like a reasonable step to
be taken right now in Iraq.
RUBIO: I am hopeful however that it is but the first step.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans saying that the president should
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pressure mainly from the right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not being specific on what action that is.
RUBIO: I hope again that what the president announced today is but a
first towards a multi-step process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do something, do something, do something.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone who inherited a heavy mantle.
OBAMA: Regardless of what`s happened in the past.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It is not my purpose today to relitigate
the history of U.S. involvement in Iraq.
RUBIO: We have the rest of history to debate who was right and who
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to come up with the least worst option.
OBAMA: Right now is a moment where the fate of Iraq hangs in the
MELBER: I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
American foreign policy has spent the better part of the last 23 years
consumed with Iraq. Two wars started by two President Bushes and backed by
many Democrats and more than two endings to those wars. When the First
Gulf War ended with Saddam in power, many conservatives said it wasn`t
really over. When President George W. Bush declared mission accomplished,
many experts knew it wasn`t really over.
When President Obama, the most openly anti-war politician to reach the
White House in a generation, when he actually took the harder step of
extracting our troops from Iraq, he was basically the first president to
tell Americans the hard truth about Iraq, that we can only end our
involvement there, but not the war itself. That line has been tested this
week. A tough week, as Iraq`s civil war deepens and many are calling for
some sort of third American war there.
That`s the context for today, when the president did something else
that`s very difficult. He assigned himself a political task no politician
would want. He leveled with the public about why we are not going back in.
That kind of leadership is also stoking an important development you
might miss amidst the hawkish rhetoric that comes out at these times. Not
only has the public come around to the president`s view, but so are many
conservatives, at least the ones who can afford to. What we`ve seen this
week is some of the most visible disagreements with the president comes
from the politicians he`s already beaten or from political hacks who
reflects Obama opposition as some kind of occasional requirement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I`m growing a little tired of this
Americans are war-weary. Do you think the Americans weren`t war weary
after World War II when North Korea invaded South Korea and Harry Truman
said, look, we`re going to stop this, and we lost I believe 30,000 dead and
I don`t know how many wounded.
But it requires a president who will sit in the Oval Office and look
at the camera and say, my fellow Americans, what`s happening in Iraq and
Syria today is a direct threat to the United States of America. These are
the pictures of the slaughter that`s taken place. These are the atrocities
that are going on. These are the things that these people have said, that
New York, we are next or something like that, one of their guys said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Here`s the thing about all this. It`s easy to look into a
camera and talk tough. That`s what most politicians do instead of
developing any foreign policy strategy here. Complaining about radical
Islam or pledging never to negotiate with anyone is easy. And it doesn`t
require any details about the religious civil war ripping through Iraq and
Syria right now.
Now, that`s exactly the task Senator Ted Cruz took on the Senate floor
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: Choices inevitably leave us with bad options. Refusing to
recognize the radical religious extremism of individuals who are committed
to jihad and have pledged to murder Americans is a bad choice. Refusing to
utter the words "radical Islamic terrorists" is a bad choice. Negotiating
with terrorists to release terrorist leaders is a bad choice. And
considering any kind of deal with Iran is a very bad choice. In the last
five years, America has receded from leadership in the world, and into that
vacuum have stepped nations like Iran, like Russia, like China.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He is really something else. And that is what the
occupational Obama opponent`s argument looks like. At the White House
today, though, the president didn`t waste time on tough talk. We already
know he opposes radical Islamic terrorists because he`s been ordering
killings and prosecutions against them whenever warranted. And he didn`t
duck the fact that so many of our heroic soldiers died in a country that we
shouldn`t have invaded and that we were right to depart from.
He confronted those scars directly and told Americans why the facts
still counsel against further intervention in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Recent days reminded us of the deep scars left by America`s
war in Iraq. Alongside the loss of nearly 4,500 American patriots, many
veterans carry the wounds of that war and will for the rest of their lives.
Here at home, Iraq has sparked vigorous debates and intense emotions in the
past, and we`ve seen some of those debates resurface. But what`s clear in
the last decade is the need for the United States to ask hard questions
before we take action abroad, particularly military action.
The most important question we should all be asking, the issue that we
have to keep front and center, the issue I keep front and center is what is
in the national security interest of the United States of America. As
commander-in-chief, that`s what I stay focused on. As Americans, that`s
what all of us should be focused on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What all of us should be focused on. This is where some
small slither of good news comes in. More people are focusing on that
harder policy goal.
The architect of the surge, General David Petraeus, spoke out about
deploying our Air Force on behalf of one side in a civil war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: This cannot be the
United States being the air force for Shia militias or a Shia on Sunni Arab
fight. It has to be a fight of all of Iraq against extremists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It`s even happening over on FOX News. Last night, Megyn
Kelly got a lot of attention when she told Dick Cheney she had been wrong
about parts of the war, and tonight, a FOX military expert offered some
advice to Bill O`Reilly that we really could have used during the Bush
administration. Just say no to middling in religious civil wars.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. DAVID HUNT (RET), FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: You do not get in
the middle of a Shia-Sunni war again.
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: All right. I got that.
HUNT: And period. You don`t do it. We lose a couple of Special
Forces guys. We got a plane shut down. We`re up to our eye balls again,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Glenn Beck feels the same way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLEN BECK: Enough is enough. Bring them home, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Joining me now, Eugene Robinson, MSNBC analyst and columnist for "The
Washington Post", and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a senior correspondent and
associate editor for "The Washington Post."
Good evening, gentlemen.
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good evening.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good evening.
MELBER: Eugene, what do you make of this cleavage that I`m talking
about? Basically, we have a distinction between the elected Obama
opposition types, and other wings of conservative thought here who want to
take this foreign policy question seriously.
ROBINSON: Well, I think you had it pretty much right, Ari, they`re
the opportunists, right? The Ted Cruzes of the world, who just get up and
blather. And then there are critics like John McCain, for example, who is
bringing up the example of the Korean War.
I suppose that`s an option, right? We could have, if we chose to
have, another big Iraq war that would involve, I guess another invasion or
huge numbers of U.S. troops to kind of push the two warring sides apart.
If you reject that, then it`s very difficult, and I think honest
conservatives and critics have -- or usual critics have come to this point.
It`s very difficult to find a course of action that`s likely to bring
success or a better result.
MELBER: Yes. And, Rajiv, when you look at that, what you have from a
lot of the Republicans who do want to make hay here is some sort of vague
assumption that military might increases American influence. That`s just
not always the case. Many experts feel that the way military might was
used here ultimately weakened our standing and you always have capacity
issues, even if you are a super duper power.
Yet what you hear from Senator McConnell that I`m about to play is the
idea that military might projected will always serve our interests. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I believe that we, as a
super power without imperialistic aims, have a duty to help maintain an
international order and a balance of power. Not out of altruism, but out
of national interest. And I believe that international order is best
maintained through American military might. In fact, I believe that
American military might forms its very backbone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I mean, Rajiv, if you take him at his word there, the idea is
that he`s got some mythical opponent who doesn`t believe in military might.
That`s not the question today, right? The question is, do we want to go
back and do a third Iraq war?
CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, you know, it makes for a great sound bite, but
let`s play out a quick bombing campaign like some of the Republican members
of Congress want. What do you do? You essentially wind up empowering the
radical Shiite elements of Iraq`s government. That`s doing Iran`s bidding.
They certainly don`t want that.
But, you know, getting into the complex dynamics of a civil war, which
the president, rightly tried to lay out today, and I think his policy is
aimed at trying to address, but that is a little too complicated for quick
sound bites on TV for members of Congress. So, you get calls for a policy
that ultimately aren`t going to serve America`s interest.
MELBER: Eugene, what do you make of the fact that the president is
clearly making remarks here and trying to level with the public in a way
that`s not politically easy? Interestingly, George W. Bush always wanted
credit for that when the war was unpopular. Here, nobody wants to go back
in. So, the policy outcome is not the risk, and yet as soon as you do what
we did today, you talk about the lives lost and the guilt collectively that
we feel and not going in.
People don`t want to have that conversation.
ROBINSON: Yes. But I think what the president was trying to do is
put it all out on the table and say, look, you know, everybody is going to
feel bad about this. Nobody feels good about the options that we have.
Nobody feels good about the American lives that were lost in Iraq. Nobody
wants to feel that those lives were lost in vain.
But by the same token, nobody has got a good idea as to some military
action we could take now that would even perhaps preserve a unitary Iraq
much less in the conflict that is coming out of Syria and this whole mess
of a region right now. And I think the president was just leveling with
the American people, what a concept.
MELBER: Yes. Rajiv, where does it go from here? Do you see a
further breakup in crisis?
CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, I think the real path forward is a diplomatic
one. There`s a moment of opportunity here. It may be a slim window, but
Iraq had national elections. They are in the process of forming a new
government, and there`s a period of horse trading coming up in Baghdad.
Can the Iraqis come together? Can the major factions come together
and essentially form a new government that does not involve President
Maliki at the head of it? Can other Shiite politicians coalesce around a
rival candidate who will be more inclusive, who will seek to bring the
Sunni Arabs in and get them to turn against these al Qaeda militants who
have flooded into the country. I think there`s a possibility there.
And this is where the president`s strategy is headed, and this is
essentially trying to complete what President Bush was supposed to have
done with the troop surge. The troop surge was not about just sending in
more forces there. It was about trying to get political compromise there.
MELBER: Right, and trying to have something that you could get by
for. I know the president also mentioned he`s going to send Secretary
Kerry to the region. So, that maybe part of what they`re also working.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Eugene Robinson, thank you both for joining
And coming up, if you had same old same old in the office pool for the
GOP House leadership, you can collect your winnings. But what does it mean
for the midterms? We`re going to tell you tonight.
And a governor who signed tough gun control legislation is backing
away from the law. We`re going to tell you about that and why he may be
And we have something very special tonight, some news on Lawrence
O`Donnell`s return. Stay with us for that, as well.
MELBER: There were two leadership votes in the U.S. House today and
you can officially say the Tea Party is back in the lead. We`ll explain,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I want to
congratulate the two members of our leadership team, Kevin McCarthy from
California is our new majority leader, and Steve Scalise from our Louisiana
is our new majority whip. I want to thank all of my colleagues who did
participate in this election. Competition is a good thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Well, GOP leaders in the House haven`t been exactly acting
like competition is a good thing. Let me tell you why, they scheduled a
rush vote to replace Eric Cantor, who lost last week. They scheduled it
for today, a move widely seen as an attempt to close ranks around Cantor`s
understudy, Kevin McCarthy, and it worked. McCarthy was promoted to the
number two job as expected in the House, and that already started to anger
But all is not lost for them. The real competition turned out to be
in the open race for the number three spot. And today`s results make the
new Republican leadership more conservative. Yes, that is possible.
Louisiana`s Steve Scalise first selected in the House back in `08 was
tapped as the new whip. And as political junkies know and "House of Cards"
fans definitely that`s the post in charge of wrangling the votes. Scalise
is a Tea Party favorite. He`s the chairman of the Republican House
Conservative Study Committee, a mouthful of a group that says it`s
organized for the purpose of advancing a specifically conservative social
and economic agenda.
And he took a victory lap today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), NEWLY ELECTED MAJORITY WHIP: We`ve built a
strong team that was representative of our entire Congress and I`m proud to
be chairman of the Republican Conservative Committee, which is 176 members
of our conference, and I`ve worked very hard over the year and a half that
I`ve been chairman to build consensus, to move conservative solutions
forward in a way that unites our conference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Translation, when he says consensus, he`s talking about a
right-driven consensus, uniting the conference and delivering the votes
that you need from the most conservative members of the House, aka the Tea
Now, playing to the conservative base, he also quickly took an
opportunity during the first question from reporters to slam both Senate
Democrats and this guy in the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCALISE: This is a win for America, because we`re going to be a more
united team moving forward. You look at a Senate that`s dysfunctional.
The president doesn`t even want to engage. He wants to sit in the oval
office with a pen, acting like there`s no legislative branch. I think what
this message sends is that the House is very united to address those and
now, we`re waiting to let the Senate and president follow suit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now is Steve Schmidt, MSNBC political analyst and
Republican strategist, as well as E.J. Dionne, an analyst and a columnist
for "The Washington Post".
Good evening, gentlemen.
E.J., I will leave the analogies to you as to what it means when this
do-nothing Republican House that almost crashed our whole economy to make a
political point is calling the Senate dysfunctional. Not that I`m such a
big senate fan, but break down what`s going over there in these House
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, it`s odd in certain ways,
because you had Eric Cantor lose his seat to someone who ran to his right
on immigration. So, this is the Tea Party protest that succeeds. And then
you have these elections, and Kevin McCarthy replaces Eric Cantor, and
Kevin McCarthy is probably a click or two to the left of Cantor, not to his
right, particularly on the immigration issue.
Now, that is what allowed, I think, Steve Scalise to win so easily,
because Southerners and conservatives wanted someone very conservative in
that leadership, and they got someone. But there were a lot of movement
activists who still aren`t happy. There was complaining, Justin Amash, a
conservative in the House who was for Raul Labrador against McCarthy,
wasn`t happy, some of the commentators like Erick Erickson weren`t happy.
But as a reflection of the Republican caucus, I suppose it`s a pretty
reflective group that they elected.
Well, Steve, part of what`s going on here, and E.J. nails it, the
bigger job at number two is status quo business as usual. So that wasn`t a
big shakeup. And these, as we reported, are secret votes. So if the
conservatives had more juice, they could have tried to push one of these
folks all the way up to number two.
And yet in number three, you have the Tea Party now in an operational
role. That is potentially something different, because previously, we were
looking back at this in 2011, you had Jeb Hensarling as the Tea Party put
in the number four position. But that`s not a real thing. The whip is
very real. Walk us through that, Steve.
STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, for sure. So, first off,
Steve Scalise and that culturally Southern party, becomes the most Southern
of John Boehner`s leadership team. And as majority whip, he becomes a
formidable figure in American politics.
Of course, this was the seat that Tom DeLay held. There you see the
tension that any whip faces. That tension is how are you as a conservative
insurgent and while at the same time, you`re the enforcer, which means
having some of the largest war chests, having the greatest capacity to
raise money, being able to do the most inside business with a lot of the
lobbyists, a lot of the associations, a lot of the special interests.
So, as he looks to move forward in his career, he`ll have to
accommodate that establishment shoulder to shoulder in Washington to get
ahead, and, of course, that will put him in tension with elements of the
base from which he came. And that`s always the tension between rhetoric
and actually governing the country, having to deal with people and having
to do the business of Washington, D.C. And so, it will be interesting to
watch in the days ahead.
MELBER: Yes. Steve, I think you`re hitting on something people
haven`t digested yet, which is this is probably the biggest test of the Tea
Party in a governing role, because he will not just be whipping the Obama
hating votes or the symbolic votes, or the re-repeal votes which aren`t
that hard to whip. This job means whipping everything, right?
SCHMIDT: Yes, absolutely. Look --
MELBER: Steve and then E.J. Sorry.
DIONNE: Yes, go ahead, Steve.
SCHMIDT: Look, I think when you look at -- when you look at the
challenge before him, there`s part of governing the country, the
ministerial duty. So, see how he performs. But it`s potentially a role
that gives him a big stage, makes him a very, very powerful player in
Republican politics and potentially for a long time to come, because we
don`t tend to have these leadership elections and shakeups very often.
DIONNE: But I think the interesting thing is, there are Tea Party
members of the House, say 30 to 40, who really don`t want to be reconciled
to, as they would see it, business as usual or as some others might see it,
governing the country.
And you already had some people complaining about Scalise, again, a
very conservative guy, and as Steve says, a representative of the
culturally conservative South. Nonetheless, you have had people
complaining he took the Republican Study Committee, this group of
conservatives, and made it much more amenable to the leadership. So he`s
already played this bridging role in his position in the Republican study
committee. So it wouldn`t surprise me if you have some -- you know, the
far right, if you will, of the Republican caucus complaining about him in
about a month or two.
MELBER: Yes, and on that point, you mentioned earlier, Erick
Erickson, a conservative blogger who, to be fair, gets, you know, real down
on just every elected Republican. But he said look, Steve Scalise worked
behind the scenes to marginalize conservatives, may have an 81 percent
Heritage Action scorecard, but he has turned the once much heralded
Republican Study Committee into a toady group for House leadership.
To E.J.`s point there, Steve, no one wants to be a toady. But let me
put it like this. Is there anything concrete and affirmative that this new
leadership will actually try to get through the House before the midterms
or is it all about holding the line and being anti-Obama?
SCHMIDT: Look, right now, as we know from all the survey data that`s
been out over the last couple of days, the president is in a very
precarious political situation. His numbers are very low. Republicans
stand to I think probably take control of the Senate to expand the majority
in the House.
And so, the House agenda is to do no political arm. You won`t see
anything getting done until after the midterm elections, and then there`ll
be a last opportunity. But the election season is fully under way, and
that means the political agenda in terms of getting the nation`s business
done is completely stalled.
And as has been the case in recent cycles, the starting date of those
cycles continues to ebb forward every two years.
MELBER: Right. The never ending campaign, and the only anecdote to
that that we saw in Virginia was that some of that anti-incumbent bias can
hurt the Republicans as well, whether that plays out differently in the
midterms, we`ll have to see.
Steve Schmidt and E.J. Dionne, thanks for joining me tonight.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
MELBER: And coming up, Democratic governor of Colorado seems to be
regretting his choice that he or his staff were made to support some
tougher gun control, or at least ammunition control in his state. We have
And later, we have that update on something important around here,
Lawrence O`Donnell`s return to THE LAST WORD.
MELBER: In the spotlight tonight, taking a stand on gun and
ammunition control, and then taking it back. Colorado`s Democrat governor
John Hickenlooper signed an important package of gun control reforms into
law last March. And it included a measure that would bar the sale of
ammunition magazines of more than 15 rounds. There was a backlash.
Governor Hickenlooper said though that he stood by that decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: It`s that simple, these high
capacity magazines have the potential to turn killers into killing
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Fifteen months later, though, it seems that the governor`s
tune has changed a little bit. He was speaking Friday at a gathering of
county sheriffs in Aspen. And he was asked why he didn`t listen to some of
those sheriffs before signing the legislation. And then things got murky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). Just kind of curious about that.
HICKENOOPER: Well, let`s stick to the facts. (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s not exactly right. He did speak to mayor Michael
Bloomberg. And by Monday, the governor`s spokesperson said quote, "the
governor was attempting to convey. He never had a conversation with
Bloomberg that influenced the decision he made."
Fine. Critics say Hickenlooper was trying to charm these sheriffs and
55 of Colorado`s 62 elected sheriffs had taken issue with the new gun laws
and filed a federal lawsuit against the state. On Friday, Governor
Hickenlooper seemed too aware of this audience that he was speaking to and
then he said this about the very legislation that he had signed and
adamantly supported last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HICKENLOOPER: I think a lot of people who didn`t know how much
emotion was going to come out of the high capacity magazine probably would
look for something different or different approach. One of my staff gave
an emphasis on who would sign it if it got pass, we ask the one of our
office will (INAUDIBLE). The tipping point for me on signing the -- giving
the -- going along even after one of my staff had committed us to signing
it, once you give your word, you generally try not to go back on that. But
I looked real hard at that one. But a couple of police officers, including
the police chief in Denver all said this is the way police officers die as
these kids go around with high capacity magazines. If we had known it was
going to divide the state so intensely, that we probably would have thought
about it (INAUDIBLE) . There are roughly 300,000 magazines that carry more
than 15 rounds in the state of Colorado already. And so, how, you know,
probably the house or police enforcement officer who got somewhat
(INAUDIBLE), how are you going -- how do differences is it going to make if
there are that many?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now, one of the two Democrats ousted in recall
elections after supporting that gun legislation, former state senate
president John Morse.
Good evening to you.
JOHN MORSE, FORMER STATE SENATE PRESIDENT: Good evening.
MELBER: You know, we got that video there from the credit is to
revealingpolitics.com. And that video is very revealing. This is a
problem with politicians in general when they want to say different things
to different audiences. And it`s a problem with Democrats who are so
afraid, even when they make progress on these gun reforms, so afraid of the
backlash. Why would anyone need more than 15 rounds in a magazine?
MORSE: Well, and the other trick is, if you`ve got to reload, that`s
15 rounds or even less, when you reload, you`re holding an empty gun. And
I would much rather, as a potential victim, face an empty gun than face a
So the reality is, magazine limits save lives. They make a huge
difference. I mean, it was a 63-year-old woman (INAUDIBLE) in Tucson that
stopped Gabby Gifford`s shooting by being able to delay the shooter from
And as the governor alluded to, he talked to police chiefs and police
officers in the Denver metro area who said yes, we support this. It is, I
think, important to recognize that it`s elected sheriffs, who are
politicians, pandering to their right wing bases that are saying there is
an issue with this. Police chiefs, and we worked with law enforcement all
over the place on these bills, police chiefs supported this 100 percent.
MELBER: Absolutely, John. You look at his comments here, he said if
we had known it was going to create to divide the state so intensely, we
would have thought about it twice, which sets up the idea that the so-
called division or political controversy is on par with trying to save
lives by limiting the nature of the offensive ammunition and weapons.
I mean, when I look at this as a lawyer, he say, OK, there are times
when you have a justify violence response and there is such a thing as a
justified killing. It is very hard from that perspective, legally and
ethically, to look at someone who is trying to shoot 15, 30, 45, 60 bullets
in a row and see why that would ever be justified.
MORSE: The other thing too, I mean, those are all excellent points.
But in addition, this didn`t divide the state. We have 55 sheriffs that
are elected officials that are pandering to their base.
Keep in mind what we did here. We said, you`ve got to get a
background check before you buy a gun no matter where and how you buy the
gun. You`ve got to pay for that background check yourself. If you want a
concealed weapons permit, you have to get some of that training in person.
You can`t get it all on the internet. We took some existing federal law
concerning domestic violence and made it state law and we said you`ve got
to reload after cranking out 15 rounds. That`s what we did.
Guess what, 85 percent of the people and something north of 70 percent
of the NRA members support background checks. This did not divide the
state. The sheriffs are loud and vociferous and you know, OK, but they
have that freedom. They ought to be able to express their opinions, but
the rest of us ought to keep our wits about us and have a little bit of
common sense and say these ideas, while they`re entitled to them, are not
helpful in moving this issue forward. We need to do something different
which is what we did last year. And I`m extraordinarily proud of what we
did last year and what the governor did last year.
MELBER: John, you say you`re proud. You lost your job, in part,
because of this issue. The governor was with you on this, but now seems
like he regrets part of it. What do you make of that, that regret from him
and he`s still in office?
MORSE: Well, and certainly he`s facing reelection, and I think he`s
making a similar mistake that was made in the recall elections because
again, those were issue committees. So I didn`t get to have any say in
what we said or did and how we spent our money. But we didn`t talk about
guns and the violence that they do, and what little truthfully we had done
to stem that, and now, you know, I am extraordinarily disappointed that the
government really is sort of going back and disrespecting the families of
the victims that worked so hard to pass this legislation in the first
But he`s also been out of the country the last several days. So I
suspect once he gets back in the country he`s going to clarify his comments
and he`s going to believe, I believe he really will believe there has been
grossly misconstrued -- I mean, I know him well and he does this sometimes
and he just doesn`t understand that you can`t have a frank, open, honest
conversation with your enemies. They`ll take every syllable and use it
against you as they`re doing here.
MELBER: Right. And on these issues, especially for publish safety
and the gun crisis we have, you have to stand firm and clear. A lot of us
gave him credit when he signed this. But we`re going to be reporting on it
and keeping an eye on it. As this comes about, as you say, if he speaks
more to it, we will cover that, too.
John Morse, thanks for joining me tonight.
MORSE: You`re very welcome. Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Coming up, the federal investigation into the bridge closures
and yes, Chris Christie.
MELBER: A little political update for you. South Carolina has a
Democratic lieutenant governor tonight. Let`s say that again. South
Carolina`s new lieutenant governor is a Democrat that is not (INAUDIBLE).
Now, how did it happen? The Republican lieutenant governor Glen McConnell
announced he was resigning to take a position as president of the college
of Charleston. Congratulations.
And you might have seen stories about Glenn McConnell. Some were
concerned about his active role as a civil war re-enactor and a member of
the group called the sons of confederate veterans.
In South Carolina, when the lieutenant governor doe resign, the Senate
pro-tem is supposed to automatically assigned to the job serving alongside
the governor, curling Nikki Hailey. But the Republican senate (INAUDIBLE)
want the job, so he resigned his post and not of the Republican behind him
in line with the pro-tem wanted to be lieutenant governor either, not sure
why not. They just weren`t into it.
So the Senate appointed the sixth most senior member of the South
Carolina Senate, Democratic Senator Yancy McGill. He will serve until
January when a newly elected lieutenant governor takes office. McGill is
South Carolina`s first Democrat lieutenant governor since all the way back
Now you have something to impress people with at cocktail parties with
Now coming up next, we are going to talk about some reported
developments in the ongoing federal investigation into Chris Christie.
There is news here.
MELBER: The ongoing investigation to governor Chris Christie`s
administration may have taken a turn today. There is a new article in
"Esquire" that reports U.S. attorney Paul Fishman may be actually closing
in on the New Jersey governor himself.
Scott Raab, along with his wife, Lisa Brennan write, quote, "Fishman`s
challenge is to nail down specific criminal charges on several fronts.
David Wildstein portrayed as the mastermind behind Fort Lee`s traffic
problem as made proper to Fishman`s investigators hoping to trade
information to the prosecutor in exchange for gently legal treatment.
Wildstein inst the only person Fishman is looking at. We know that.
And according to the article, Fishman is also taking a hard look at this
man, 74-year-old David Sampson, a former attorney general of New Jersey and
a mentor to the governor.
Now, the article cites two unnamed sources, I stressed, unnamed
sources who are claiming that Fishman is trying to get Sampson to flip.
The article says quote " the clearest quickest road to Chris Christie, both
sources agreed, runs through David Sampson. They have him cold, says one
source. He got sloppy, arrogant, and greedy. Sampson will want a deal.
This way he would get one or two years. He would have a future on the
other side. He won`t want to die in jail."
Strong claims there. But as we`ve said, an unidentified claims, and
we don`t know exactly why these sources want to remain anonymous or what ax
they have to grind. Now, as for governor Christie`s side of the story
here, he has been saying repeatedly as of his lawyers that there is no
wrong doing and this whole investigation should basically be winding down.
And to that end, in terms of his political tone, he spent recent days
dancing with Jimmy Fallon of "Tonight show" and visiting with potential
donors out in Utah. One donor there, though brought it all up, he asked
Christie about the scandal. The governor responded directly saying quote
"it`s over. It`s done with. And I`m moving on."
Joining me now is MSNBC contributor for Brian Murphy who also worked
for David Wildstein in 2002 as the managing editor of Politicsmj.com.
BRIAN MURPHY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: How are you?
MELBER: I`m great. To start with, Billy Joel, you know, there`s
moving out, moving on, not clear which might be happening here. The
governor`s attitude in contra distinction to this kind of report is that
there is nothing to see here.
MURPHY: That`s the claim. And in a lot of ways, I mean, that this
story has this whole bridgegate and everything associated with bridgegate
has been that there is a process that`s happening in the public eye, and
that`s the tip of the iceberg.
So if it looks like the legislative committee that`s meeting in
Trenton that is investigating this, might not have a lot of action going
on. There`s a reason for that. It`s because they can`t get all the
witnesses that they like to because those witnesses are talking to the
feds. That`s where the action is.
But that`s what`s happening at the federal level is mostly happening
out of sight, all right. They are not -- this office doesn`t leak the way
that that office did when the governor Christie used to run it.
So it`s extremely hard to find out for the reporters who are covering
this, to really tough out what`s going on down there, who is appearing,
what`s going on? We know in the last week, we know that there`s been
confirmation from the port authority that the SEC, the security and
exchange commission is running an investigation into the port authority`s
finances. We know the Manhattan D.A. is looking into that. We know
there`s a separate grand jury looking only at bridgegate.
MELBER: Right. You mention that "the Wall Street Journal" reporting,
and I would argue in affirmer tones then what we have for the unnamed
sources about that second grand jury. That is significant. And the number
of things also being investigated in total is significant. The diversion
of port authority money to fund road and bridge projects, the lane closure
that everybody has heard about, real estate deals made by Sampson when he
chaired that port authority board, and claims made, of course, by Dawn
Zimmer, first reported by MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki alleging that Christie`s
lieutenant governor withheld Sandy relief aid, which also could have a real
federal next there if true.
So when you look at all that stacked up, and then the politics of
this, which is governor Chris Christie, when I show him there as I did in
the lead, you know, dancing with Jimmy Fallon, sometimes a late night
appearance is not just a late night appearance. They are assiduously
working to try to suggest that he is happy, that he`s chill, that this is
MURPHY: And if you go to Trenton, you get the sense, that`s what I
had last week, you get the sense there are a tremendous number of people
who are moving on, who are ready for this to go away, who think this is
over, because what they can see and what we get updates on doesn`t seem all
Again, this stuff that`s where the action is, is happening out of
sight. But it`s really important. Because if you can get to David Sampson
-- I mean, it`s hard to overstate to a national audience sort of the
towering figure that David Sampson is.
MELBER: The Karl Rove of New Jersey.
MURPHY: Yes. I mean, the James Baker, the (INAUDIBLE), if you will of
Jersey politics, right? This is someone who has his -- who is tied in to a
lot of people, has a stern reputation. So being able to get someone like
MELBER: Could flip everything.
Brian Murphy, thanks for joining me tonight. Good reporting there.
And coming up, we have an update on when Lawrence O`Donnell will be
returning to this show. And we have late night comedians who get our last
word. Stay with us.
MELBER: Welcome back. And now I have something that is good news.
Entirely good news in this segment. It`s the best news we`ve been holding
for the very end of the show.
But first, to get you warmed up, we`ll make you laugh courtesy of the
kings of late night, from Kim Kardashian to a master of unreality, Dick
Cheney. Have a look.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR, THE LAST WORD: No, no, no, Ari, we
are not doing that. We are not going for the kings of comedy.
Yes, Ari, I hung around to ambush you. I`ve got a -- I`m taking over
I have a different plan. How about two months, I`m looking at you
down at the monitor instead of looking at you up here in the camera where I
have to pretend.
Ari, how about two months of highlights of "the Last Word" with Ari
Melber right now.
MELBER: Good evening. I`m Ari Melber in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
Today we got a look at the possible future of the Democratic Party, and
I`ll tell you about it. But first, let them take a selfie.
Paging Dr. Rove, Dr. Karl Rove.
Chris Christie delivers the buzz kill.
Dick Cheney said what?
Please don`t call it a comeback.
The rapper, his wife, her sister, and one nation living under
Today, he says he`s not a racist.
In other news, he`s not a player. He just crushes a lot.
Breaking news tonight that has sent shockwaves through the political
Congressman Cantor lost his primary tonight.
Senator, it is nice to see you again, even through the TV screen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you`re doing a good job filling in. Thank
MELBER: I was glad we have (INAUDIBLE), jelly bean here in the shot.
I didn`t get to ask them about the midterms. Maybe we`ll do that in our
next cable interview.
I`ve got to tell you, Sam, I wish pizza was a vegetable.
Zombies are horribly (INAUDIBLE) human life, therefore having a
population that is not composed of zombies are at risk from their malign
influence, is vital to the U.S. and allied national interests.
Vice president Biden did the honors with an e-reader at the White
Now, folks, there`s no word yet on whether amazon.com will try to
undercut prices for digital constitutions here. That`s electronic
publishing joke for everyone keeping track at home. No, nothing?
O`DONNELL: Ari, so rule number one, it`s not a joke if you tell them
it`s a joke.
MELBER: That`s true.
O`DONNELL: That means, it is actually just about it.
But Ari, listen, I am here to say thank you. You`ve done an
incredible job over these nine weeks. That`s not just me talking, that`s
everybody on my twitter feed. That`s everybody who has been watching the
show. I could not be more grateful to you to let me do this, to take this
time to get ready to come back. You`ve been incredible. The network`s
been incredible. Phil Griffin has been incredible to me, getting me out of
trouble in the first place when I was on an island that had no hospital
that could do surgery, which I desperately needed. I`m just filled to
gratitude to everybody there, but especially you, Air, for getting us
through these two months on the show. Really appreciate it.
MELBER: You bet. I mean, I`m still in some shock, I appreciate
everything you`re saying.
O`DONNELL: This was an ambush.
MELBER: I`m thinking about --
O`DONNELL: You thought you were just going to tell the people I`m
coming back on Monday, because you thought I was too lazy to hang around
after the Rachel Maddow.
MELBER: I wouldn`t characterize it as lazy. But I had a whole
meeting with your team about this blog.
O`DONNELL: Ari, I told them to lie to you today and say we`re going
to do, you know, a clip of late night comedy. And then I will ambush him
on the air. That was the plan. That`s my way of saying thank you, ambush
you on the air.
MELBER: It`s a very true to you. It is a very Lawrence O`Donnell
thing to do. What I would say to you is, in all seriousness, you know,
when we first heard about the crash, it`s a scare to everyone here who
works with you, who looks up to you, and then, of course, you need time to
And working with your team, you have an incredible team here. So I`ve
learned from them. Been able, as you were getting better to feel like this
was a good thing. And everyone is so happy that you`re back. And I can
say, because I get the e-mail, I talk to people, the number of people out
there who were missing you and wanting to hear from you and were excited to
have you back is -- has just been overwhelming. So I`m happy to play a
small role in keeping the chair going for you.
O`DONNELL: Let me tell you what it feels out here, Ari, among the
people. America loves Ari Melber.
Thank you, Ari, so much for all of this.
MELBER: Thank you, Lawrence. And this was --
O`DONNELL: Hey, which one of us ends the show and says Chris Hayes is
MELBER: I think it is you.
O`DONNELL: No, no, no, Ari. Come on. It is your last official act
until my next sick day.
MELBER: Or vacation day. It doesn`t have to only to be a sick day.
You got to be optimistic.
O`DONNELL: Ari, I believe I`ve burned up my vacation for the next
MELBER: This was funny and a perfect way to wrap it up, Lawrence.
Thank you very much. Lawrence O`Donnell gets the last word. I`m Ari
Melber in for Lawrence O`Donnell as you may have heard, thank you,
everyone, for watching. Thanks for your support. And Chris Hayes starts
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Ari.
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