Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: November 13, 2014

Guest: Chris Van Hollen, Richard Bushman, Laurie Goodstein

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Well, it`s official. Mitch McConnell
was elected the new majority leader of the United States Senate today, and
the Democrats elected Senator Elizabeth Warren to a new leadership post.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Americans have
trusted Republicans with both control of the House and the Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today on Capitol Hill, they`re picking the new
leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New leadership teams which look remarkably like
old leadership teams.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Surprised me, any changes to the leadership in
neither party?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is this about Elizabeth Warren being given
some leadership post?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This position is going to essentially be an
outreach coordinator to the party`s liberal base.

BOEHNER: Finding common ground is not going to be easy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Taking up big issues including the Keystone
pipeline.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The controversial Keystone pipeline.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are a lot of Democrats who don`t want this
to go through.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: Of course, I`ve stood against my
leadership when I had to and this is one of the times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican
Congressman Bill Cassidy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both candidates in Louisiana Senate runoff --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brought the issue to the top of the legislate
agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Landrieu sort of angered both Republicans and
Democrats in doing this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even if President Obama may veto any action the
Congress may take.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama is getting closer to a decision
on immigration.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve got legal
authority to make improvements on the system.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There have been some
concerned expressed by Republicans in Congress.

BOEHNER: He is going to poison the well.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), INCOMING MAJORITY LEADER: A big mistake.

BOEHNER: When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning
yourself.

OBAMA: People want to see this city work.

BOEHNER: Americans have trusted Republicans with both control of the
House and the Senate.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: This means there will be more Republicans
than ever making government smaller by working full-time in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Both parties in the Senate and the Republicans in the
House held elections today for their so-called leadership. While the only
Democrat in the Senate who was still running for re-election is publicly
battling with her party`s leadership.

The leaders on the winning side of the congressional election will
keep their leadership posts. John Boehner will remain speaker of the House
and Mitch McConnell will remain the Republican leader of the Senate, but he
will move from being the minority leader to being the majority leader in
January.

Democrats re-elected Harry Reid as their leader, but he will now
suffer the severe demotion from majority leader to minority leader in the
Senate.

There really is only one leader for each party, but there is always
more than one senator who thinks he or she should be the leader, or a
leader. And so, over the years, leaders have invented meaningless
positions for senators who do not yet have the power of a chairmanship to
keep them busy.

Elizabeth Warren may be the first senator to be granted up with of
these meaningless positions not because of her relentlessly begging for it,
but rather by popular demand. Elizabeth Warren is, by an order of
magnitude, the biggest star on the Democratic side of the Senate. She is
clearly the most popular senator among Democratic voters.

And so, she will now take her place in the photograph of the expanding
Democratic Senate leadership team. She has been given the title of
strategic policy adviser to the Democratic policy and communication center.
Something no one in the Senate thought they needed in its 225-year history
until this afternoon.

It is -- make no mistake about it -- a fake position invented for the
one senator who does not need a fake position to get the attention of
senators or the public. She is the best educated and smartest senator,
which is something the majority of the Senate still respects, even if some
respect that grudgingly. She has the most enthusiastic following of any
senator in the Democratic Party, and every other senator knows that. She
has been from her first day in office a senator to be reckoned with.

At the other end of the Democratic Party, the senator to be reckoned
with today is Democrat Mary Landrieu who came in first on election night
but not with enough votes to avoid a final runoff election against the
Republican candidate on December 6th. No Democratic senator has worked
harder in a campaign to disassociate herself from the Democratic Party than
Mary Landrieu.

She is now pushing for a vote to authorize the Keystone Pipeline in
the Senate, which she strongly supports.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANDRIEU: I believe that we should take the new majority leader at
his word and stop blocking legislation that is broadly supported by the
American public and has been for quite some time. I want to say yes to
majority leader, new majority leader Mitch McConnell.

You know what? I`d like to vote on Keystone now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: One of Senator Landrieu`s co-sponsors of the bill,
Republican Senator John Hoeven says they will vote next week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN HOEVEN (R), NORTH DAKOTA: We`ll vote on it Tuesday. We`ve
got all 45 Republicans onboard. As a matter of fact, all 45 Republicans
are co-sponsors of this legislation. So, we need 15 Democrats.

We`ll see what happens on Tuesday. We hope to have 60 votes.

If we don`t get 60 votes on Tuesday. In the new Congress, we will
have 60 votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Washington was rocked today by a "New York Times" report
this afternoon that indicates the president is ready to issue an executive
order on immigration, including a change that according to "The New York
Times", quote, "will allow many parents of children who are American
citizens or legal residents to obtain legal work documents and no longer
worry about being discovered, separated from their families and sent away.
That part of Mr. Obama`s plan alone could affect as many as 3.3 million
people who have been living in the United States illegally for at least
five years."

This created a distraction, to put it mildly, for Republicans in
Congress who are working on a way to continue funding the government after
funding runs out December 11th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: We`ll not be shutting the government down or threatening
to default on the national debt.

REPORTER: Even if he goes forward on immigration?

MCCONNELL: We`ll not be shutting the government down or threatening
to default on national debt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: House Republican Hal Rogers, the chairman of the
appropriations committee, who`s also working on funding the government,
said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAL ROGERS (R-KY), APPROPRIATIONS CMTE. CHAIRMAN: Surely,
Congress understands the kind of explosion that will occur up here if he
takes that unilateral action. Sure, he`s got better sense than to do.
However, like it`s been said before, don`t take a hostage if you can`t
shot.

We don`t -- I don`t want a shutdown. I don`t want the threat of a
shutdown, because that doesn`t serve our purposes.

We`ll pass a bill before December 11th to continue the government.
There will not be a shutdown.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Congressman Van Hollen, Democrat from
Maryland, and the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, and Eugene
Robinson, columnist for "The Washington Post".

Congressman Van Hollen, you`re working on this difficult task of
putting together a funding agreement to go forward after December 11th.
How did the news report today indicating that the president is ready to
take action on immigration affect your negotiations with Republicans and
what`s your judgment about how it will affect things going forward?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Lawrence, the Republican
caucus is now putting any agreement at great risk. You know, we`ve heard
Republican leaders in the past say they were opposed to a government
shutdown. That`s what Speaker Boehner said a little over a year ago before
we saw a 16-day government shutdown because the Tea Party wing of this
party demanded it.

And what you`re seeing in the last, you know, 12 hours is increasing
pressure from the Republican Tea Party caucus either to use the
appropriation process to get what they want and stopping executive order,
which would be a government shutdown, or to put us on a very short-term
government funding basis, which would create uncertainty in the economy and
disruption throughout the federal government. In other words, going month
to month instead of passing the appropriations bill for the remainder of
this fiscal year.

O`DONNELL: Well, Congressman, we have public proms from both John
Boehner and Mitch McConnell since the election that there will be no
government shutdown and they knew then when they said it that this
executive order was coming.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, that`s exactly right. But, again, I harken back to
Boehner said it was a bad idea to shut down the government. He got rolled
over by Senator Ted Cruz who organized the House Tea Party Republicans in
the caucus.

So, I know they would prefer not to have to deal with this, but their
caucus again may demand it. And now, we`re seeing one of two options that
is being presented. One is the government shutdown option. But the other
is, this very disruptive other option. I should say, Lawrence, though, the
speaker has it in his hands, right?

We`re in the House in the position of the bipartisan Senate
comprehensive immigration bill. Speaker Boehner should allow the people`s
house to work its will, let`s have a vote, he can vote no, but the House
should be able to act on this piece of legislation. And that would resolve
the situation. I`m sure it would pass and the president could sign it
tonight.

O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, one of the political challenges at the
moment is that the White House is allowing there to be talk about an
executive order, but there`s no specificity about what the actual legal
grounding for a key provision of it is. Most of it, as reported today, is
simply prosecutorial discretion, arrest discretion. That`s all clearly
within the executive`s discretion, whether it`s a mayor, a governor or a
president.

But there`s a piece in here that says that these executive orders
would then allow for many parents of children who are American citizens or
legal residents to obtain legal work documents. And, Gene, I have not been
able to obtain an answer to the White House about what is the legal ground
in grounding for allowing a new category to obtain legal work documents.

That -- I don`t know how you do that without legislation. They may
have a way, but part of what`s kind of explosive about this politically
right now is they`re not saying what that way is.

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. And whatever they
eventually say is that way, I think you and I would both predict there`s
going to be some sort of legal challenge to it, because I, too, am at a
loss to know exactly where the authority for that is.

So, really, there are two issues here. There`s the legal issue that
we just talked about, and there`s, of course, the political issue. What do
Republicans do? And maybe the one we ought to be talking to is Senator Ted
Cruz, who seems to be the de facto speaker of the House in this situation,
or maybe he`s too distracted with his quixotic (AUDIO GAP) what`s happening
with immigration.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Van Hollen, you have been through many -- I
have lost track of the count -- you might know it. The number of repeal
votes on repealing the Affordable Care Act in the House of Representatives,
dozens of those. It looks like the Senate will surely go through at least
one before Mitch McConnell then is able to say to his caucus, OK, I did
that. It`s not going to happen. I tried it. Now let`s start working on
things within the Affordable Care Act piece by piece.

And as you know, there`s a big controversy that`s developed this week
because professor John Gruber, an economist who advised the White House and
Democrats on the Affordable Care Act, has said some things about the -- it
being as a legislative exercise deliberately deceptive to the public.

Nancy Pelosi was asked about Jonathan Gruber today, and I`m going to
show you how this is being framed by FOX News in their coverage of this.
She said she didn`t know who Jonathan Gruber was.

Let`s just look at how this is being framed in the Republican cheering
section.

VAN HOLLEN: Right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I don`t know who he
is. He didn`t help write our bill. And so, with all due respect to your
question, you have a person who wasn`t writing our bill commenting on what
was going on when we were writing the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But here she is talking him up back in 2009 when
she was pushing to pass the Democratic plan.

PELOSI: Our bill brings down rates. I don`t know if you have seen
Jonathan Gruber`s, of MIT, analysis.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O`DONNELL: Congressman Van Hollen, what do you suspect that does to
the momentum in the Senate? Because you` been through it in the House.
You know what it`s like to these repeal votes in the House. But what do
you think it does to the momentum on the repeal issues and pressures --
other political pressures on the Affordable Care Act in the new Senate?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I`m sure this will add fuel to the fire on the
Republican senators as you indicated. Mitch McConnell I think would like
to have that one vote, get it out of the way.

My guess is as a result of this and other things, including constant
pressure from the Tea Party, they`re probably going to have to go through
this exercise many times in the new Senate just as we`ve done it, I think,
over 50 times in the House, because of pressure from the Tea Party.

I do think it`s worth pointing out, Lawrence, and you know, that the
hearings on the Affordable Care Act extended over months and months and
months and months. There was lots of debate in the full light of day.
Yes, people may decide they don`t like the Affordable Care Act. The fact
is it`s working in reducing the uninsurance rates in this country.

But the reality is, there was lots of debate throughout the country as
we dealt with and then finally voted on the Affordable Care Act.

O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, we have some Republicans now saying we need
to have Gruber hearings. This could be next year`s Benghazi.

I think in the totality of what professor Gruber was saying in that
seminar that he was talking a couple of years ago, it`s all very clear.
It`s also very academic. And academic points tend not to sound very wise
politically.

But when you see Nancy Pelosi handling it that way today with the line
of "I don`t know John Gruber," it`s clear to me, I think, that the
Democrats haven`t quite figured out how to handle what may become the
Gruber effect.

ROBINSON: Yes, Democrats need to be smarter about this. And one of
the smart things in politics is that you don`t call the voters "stupid" and
you don`t say you have deliberately deceived them. And, in fact, and you
don`t stand with people who said that, if you want the voters to vote for
you.

So -- I mean, that`s kind of basic, I think. Democrats ought to get
with that right now. They would say it was a terrible choice of words and
frankly, a terrible way to think.

I mean, there was no deception in the Affordable Care Act. There were
hearings. It was all laid out. Ad nauseam and it passed and it`s in
effect and it`s working.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Eugene Robinson, thank
you both for joining me tonight.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

ROBINSON: Great to be here, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, the man who performed the autopsy of Michael Brown at the
request of his family testified before the grand jury today.

And Arkansas`s governor has decided to issue a pardon to his son who
was convicted of possession of marijuana. Don`t you wish your father was
governor? That`s in "The Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The happy scientists at the European Space Agency say the
spacecraft that landed on a comet 300 million miles from earth hit the
comet, bounced twice and is now situated next to a cliff that may not allow
enough sunlight on its solar panels which could mean its mission could be
shorter than they hoped. The lander is stable and in good shape. And its
instruments are gathering data about the comet. It is also sending
pictures back, including one where you can see the tail of the comet bright
in the sunlight.

Up next, the grand jury in Ferguson heard from another pathologist who
did one of the autopsies of Michael Brown. Lisa Bloom and Joy Reid will
join me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The private pathologist hired by the family of 18-year-old
Michael Brown testified before a grand jury today. Dr. Michael Baden
arrived at the St. Louis courthouse this morning and completed his
testimony by the afternoon, marking what could be the final stages of the
grand jury proceedings and determining whether or not to indict officer
Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed the unarmed teenager
on August 9. Attorneys for Michael Brown`s family believe the grand jury
asked to hear from the pathologist. Dr. Baden`s testimony came 12 weeks
after the grand jury first convened to hear evidence in the Michael Brown
case.

County prosecutor Bob McCullough has said a decision from the grand
jury could come as early as mid to late November. An interview with NBC`s
Pete Williams today, Attorney General Eric Holder said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Do you have a message for both the law
enforcement community and the community itself?

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Certainly, we want to ensure that
people who have First Amendment rights have the ability to protest as they
deem appropriate, while at the same time making sure we protect people in
law enforcement and that we minimize the chances that any legitimate
protest devolves into violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Joy Reid, host of MSNBC`s "THE REID
REPORT", and Lisa Bloom, a legal analyst for NBC News and Avvo.com.

Lisa, what do you make of Michael Baden being called to the grand jury
today?

LISA BLOOM, NBC NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we have to remember the
context. Several weeks ago, Michael Baden spoke out publicly and said, I
would like to testify before the grand jury, and so far, I haven`t been
called. Now three months into this proceeding, belatedly, apparently at
the tail end, they`re calling him and as you say, because one of the grand
jurors or more than one asked to hear from him.

That`s all very unusual and doesn`t speak highly of a prosecution team
actually wanting to prostitute, actually wanting charges to be filed
against Darren Wilson.

O`DONNELL: But, Joy, it may speak well of the grand jurors, if it is
true. And I`m not sure how we could establish this. If it`s true that one
or more grand jurors requested to hear this testimony, because that means
you have activist grand jurors. And grand jurors unlike trial jurors can
be active. They can ask questions. They can actually tell prosecutors we
want you to bring in this witness, that sort of thing.

JOY REID, THE REID REPORT: Yes. And it suggests in a sense, as you
said, if that is true that there is a grand jury that`s more curious and
more interested in actively engaging the case than it appears the
prosecutor is. I think one of the things that Lisa Bloom has said many,
many times. I heard her say it on your show, is the word unusual. You
seem to have a grand jury that`s leading itself rather than a prosecutor
who`s providing the narrative that is to surround all of this volume of
information that it just feels like the grand jury is just sort of
wandering through on their own.

O`DONNELL: And, Lisa, it would seem to me that if the prosecutor
intended to call two pathologists, the county pathologist and the family`s
pathologist, that the prosecutor would have done that sequentially. You
would have the county pathologist come in, do it and then have the family`s
pathologist in as the very next witness.

BLOOM: Well, listen, let me give you my trial lawyer`s perspective.
I would have called Michael Baden first or one of the first witnesses.
Why? Because he`s from out of town. He doesn`t have a connection to
anyone in the case. He`s an independent voice. He`s highly respected and
he`s got many decades of experience.

Bring him in because he`s going to help you get charges. Again, you
would only do that if you actually want charges to be filed. And remember,
this prosecutor has said, we`re not going to recommend any particular
charges to the grand jury. We`re going to let them decide. That`s another
big warning sign to me.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and you vote for a district attorney, you hire
prosecutors for their prosecutorial judgment, for their experience, and
looking at criminal conduct and being able to identify human behavior that
is over the line of criminal conduct. And this elected prosecutor has, as
Lisa said, publicly said, I will bring none of my experience and judgments,
and I will allow none of my prosecutors to bring any of their experience
and judgment into the room.

REID: Yes, exactly. This is the person who is the expert in the
criminal code. And we saw in the George Zimmerman case that jurors were
even confused as to the law when the law was presented to them by an expert
in the criminal code.

So, to expect ordinary citizens, bright though they may be, to wander
through evidence without being provided a narrative by the person who`s
expertise, as you said, is called upon by the citizens. This is an elected
official.

So, I think this has been disturbing on so many levels. The
prosecutor doesn`t seem to be doing the theatre of attempting to represent
the interests of the people. He`s essentially saying you just figure out
whatever you want to do and washing his hands of it. And that is so
disturbing it`s hard to wrap your mind around it.

O`DONNELL: And, Lisa, I wonder how this grand jury, if it wanted to
bring criminal charges would then figure out exactly which criminal charges
apply since this prosecutor is saying I`m not going to put criminal charges
in front of them and ask them to vote on murder one or murder two or
manslaughter. I`m not going to do that.

BLOOM: Listen, it`s my opinion that if a prosecutor doesn`t zealously
advocate for a particular charges to brought, a jury simply will not do
that job for them.

That was the problem in the George Zimmerman case. I wrote an entire
book about that. The prosecutors essentially threw all the evidence out
there and let the jury decide. They asked them a series of question. They
told them to piece the evidence.

The jury is back there floundering around, we know now, and they just
couldn`t do it. I don`t know if that`s what`s going to happen. As you
say, we have a little clue here that maybe there`s an activist juror, but
the prosecutors are not piecing the evidence together, telling them, here`s
the elements of manslaughter, here`s the element of second degree or first
degree murder. Here`s how the facts fit into it. And that is a
prosecutor`s job.

O`DONNELL: Lisa Bloom and Joy Reid, thank you both for joining me.

"THE REID REPORT", 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, right?

REID: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: OK.

Coming up in "The Rewrite", the governor of Arkansas rewrites his
son`s felony conviction for possession of marijuana.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe in my
Mormon faith, and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my
fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs.


*
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN NOMINEE IN THE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: I
believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the
faith of my father`s.

I`ll be true to them and to my beliefs. Some believe that such a
confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they`re right, so be it.
But, I think they underestimate the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In the "Spotlight" tonight, the increasing openness of the
Mormon Church. Since Mitt Romney`s first presidential campaign, Mormonism
has received increasing national attention.

Recently, the Mormon Church has decided to be more open about the
religion founded by Joseph Smith in 1830.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

The church recently posted Pictures of the undergarments its members
wear and has acknowledged that some of the more -- and has begun to
acknowledge some of the more uncomfortable truths about Joseph Smith
himself.

"The New York Times" reports Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the
first time that the church`s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed
in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse, Emma, took as
many as 40 wives, some already married and one, only 14 years old.

Smith probably did not have sexual relations with all of his wives
because some were sealed to him only for the next life, according to the
essays posted by the church. But for his first wife, Emma, polygamy was,
quote, "an excruciating ordeal."

The biggest bombshell for some in the essays is that Smith married
women who were already married. Some, to men who were Smith`s friends and
followers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Joining me now is Richard Bushman, Professor Emeritus of History at
Columbia University and author of "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling." And
Laurie Goodstein, National Religion Correspondent for "The New York Times."

And, Laurie, you have the best beat at "The Times" because whenever
you do have an article, it is always fascinating, like this one. And,
Richard Bushman, I want to go to you on the revelations in Laurie`s piece.

What I found so striking about it was that these basic facts that were
laid out in Laurie`s piece in "The New York Times" are such shocking news
to some members of the Mormon religion.

RICHARD BUSHMAN, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF HISTORY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY:
Well, it was a surprise to me that it was so shocking.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

BUSHMAN: But the fact of the matter is, the church has not been
discussing polygamy. It`s tried to put it in the past, sort of forget
about it. And so, church members --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- could grow up without having any real understanding that Joseph
Smith did have other wives than Emma.

O`DONNELL: And, Laurie, this is a bit -- this technique --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

-- is common in religions. When I went through Catholic school, I
noticed that there was a really elementary version of this religion that
was delivered to me in elementary school.

As I got into high school, the priests got more and more
sophisticated. They pulled back more and more of -- and made it a much
more real discussion about what the faith involved.

Is that what Mormonism is going through now. And is there a risk for
Mormonism in this.

LAURIE GOODSTEIN, NATIONAL RELIGION CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK
TIMES": I think this is happening because we`re in the Internet era. And
what is going on is that Mormons were hearing things and looking to the
Internet for more information. And, reading things, --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- they would then go back to their church leaders and say, "I found
something, that Joseph Smith married a girl as young as 14." And their
bishop would say, "Well, that`s absolutely not true."

O`DONNELL: Really, they would actually say it wasn`t true.

GOODSTEIN: Yes.

O`DONNELL: Because that was as easily documented as you could ask for
in historical terms.

GOODSTEIN: Well, they would tell them it`s anti-Mormon propaganda.

O`DONNELL: Wow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOODSTEIN: And so, what would happen is, there were people who were
experiencing a crisis of faith because they couldn`t reconcile what they
were reading on the Internet and what they were hearing from their church
leaders.

Not everyone, but this was common enough. And so, the church was
getting wind of this and, in 2012, realized that they had better produce
some reliable information for their own members, put it on the Internet,
and make it accessible to everybody as, the church historians told me, a
safe place where members could go.

O`DONNELL: Richard Bushman, as a Mormon yourself, what would you say
to Mormons whose faith is shaken by some of these factual revelations about
Joseph Smith.

BUSHMAN: Well, I think they just have to live with it. The facts are
the facts, that`s all there is to it. I think it`s actually a wonderful or
it can be a positive experience, and that Mormons have to ask themselves,
"What do I really believe."

It`s so easy to just kind of accept an inherited faith, comes down
from your parents, and just live with it. But once you get shaken a little
bit, then you have to say, "Well, what is it that`s really good here that I
want to hold on to."

O`DONNELL: And, Laurie, I have Mormon friends who have had exactly
that conversation with themselves and their families over time. And, as I
say, I find a common trend here in the way people in other religions go
through similar kinds of things.

The difference here is that all of the facts you`re looking at are so
recent. And we can document them with very simple things like American
birth certificates and real factual information.

And you don`t have anything like that when you start exploring the
life of Jesus Christ.

GOODSTEIN: That`s right. That`s why this is so fascinating. I
brought something to show you.

This is one of more than 20 volumes, Joseph Smith`s papers, that the
church is publishing. Anybody can look at these.

These are his revelations, his letters, his diaries. They have made
all of this public, and for historians and scholars to pick through, but
also for members.

So, this is a faith that is going through something that no other
faith that I can think of has gone through. One historian told me that the
Roman Catholic Church has had 2,000 years --

O`DONNELL: Yes.

GOODSTEIN: -- to iron out the hiccups in its history.

O`DONNELL: Very gradually iron it out.

GOODSTEIN: Right, right. And so, this faith is less than 200 years
old so -- and born in America, and left behind all this documentation. And
so, now, the leaders of this church are figuring out, "What do we do with
this."

O`DONNELL: And, Richard Bushman, is it your sense that church leaders
are worried about what happens as they become more open.

BUSHMAN: I think, in a time of great change like this, there are
going to be some people who are very anxious about it.

GOODSTEIN: Uh-hmm.

BUSHMAN: But the leaders at the very top of the church have endorsed
this project from beginning to end. Everything that goes out in those
papers is read by the highest leaders of the church, the first presidency.

So, I think, think they realize there is no foundation on which you
can really be secure unless it`s the whole truth. And that`s what they`re
committed to doing.

O`DONNELL: And, Laurie, we`ve also reported that, in the Mormon
Church, they`re going through struggles with women`s role in the church,
just as the Catholic Church has been going through for many years, as a
similar example.

The women do not get the same level of the status in the clergy of the
church and in the workings of the church generally. What`s happening
there.

GOODSTEIN: Well, the church has very well-educated and very
religiously well-informed women. They cannot be priests, however.

O`DONNELL: Uh-hmm.

GOODSTEIN: They can serve in the church in all kinds of roles but
they can`t be clergy. And so, there are some women --

O`DONNELL: And priest is a relatively low-level function in the
Mormon Church. It`s not the way it is in that same word in Catholicism.

GOODSTEIN: Yes. Actually, lay people, --

O`DONNELL: Yes.

GOODSTEIN: -- laymen, --

O`DONNELL: Yes.

GOODSTEIN: -- become priests.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

GOODSTEIN: And laymen run this church. Women do as well but they
don`t have -- you know, they`re non-ordained.

And so, there are some women in the church now who are pushing that
and who say, "Why can`t women be priests." And there is a movement within
the church.

It`s small but it`s growing. And the church is having to respond to
this. In fact, one of the papers --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- that the historians might produce is about women in the priesthood.
That might be the next essay that they release.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And, Richard Bushman, among the challenges that Mormonism
has is the -- one of the beliefs that the president of the Mormon church
has direct communication with God.

And that, then, some of the dictates that come down from the president
are, therefore, divine. And it was Brigham Young who had these notions
about black people that seemed to have developed into the church`s position
where black men could not become priests until, I guess, it`s 1978 or so.

And then it changes -- in my understanding of Mormon doctrine is, the
way it changes, it starts to sound like God changed his mind, because God
thought this before but, now, God doesn`t think this anymore.

BUSHMAN: Well, that`s the story of all religions. They`re always
having to adapt to the present.

I think that`s true for Catholicism. It`s adapted for 2,000 years.
And Islam, today, is going through these changes.

In the Latter Day Saint Church, it`s become sort of institutional in
the sense that we expect revelations to keep guiding us along the new
paths, helping us to adjust to new conditions.

And so, yes, there will be changes. What you hope is that they`ll be
behind it, some lasting principles that sort of govern these changes the
way the United States Constitution sort of hovers over and guides the
development of our government.

O`DONNELL: Richard Bushman and Laurie Goodstein, thank you both very
much for joining me tonight. Thank you.

Coming up, one day after an awkward encounter with President Obama,
Vladimir Putin shows once again that boundaries don`t mean much to him.

And in the "Rewrite," how one governor rewrote his son`s marijuana
conviction. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MIKE BEEBE (D), ARKANSAS: He was embarrassed. And, frankly, I
was embarrassed, and his mother was embarrassed, all the families that go
through that.

I mean, you know, it`s tough on the families. But the kids --
hopefully, the kids learn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: But not all of the kids who go through it have fathers
whoa re governors who can pardon them for their youthful indiscretions
involving marijuana.

That`s what Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe has decided to do for his son
who was convicted 11 years ago of felony possession of marijuana with
intent to sell. Mike Beebe`s son was sentenced to three years, supervised
probation and fine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

After the Arkansas Parole, Board recommended the governor`s son for a
pardon last month, the governor has decided to grant his son a pardon,
something the governor has already done for more than 700 mostly non-
violent offenders starting in 2007, the year he took office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Now, that was four years after his son`s marijuana conviction. And he
may very well have decided at the outset of his governorship that he was
going to erase his son`s criminal record.

And the best political course for him to follow would be to pardon,
oh, say, about 700 people before he got to his son`s part.

I, for one, don`t care if Governor Beebe`s attitude toward pardons
were shaped entirely by pardoning his son. I am grateful for every pardon
that every governor and every president issues for someone who is a
casualty in this country`s misguided war on marijuana.

Governor Beebe has rewritten the future for 700 people whose criminal
convictions no longer have to hold them back in the workplace. We can only
hope that governors who are more reluctant to issue pardons will see the
wisdom in Governor Beebe`s approach.

And if it means that all of those governors have to have their kids
arrested and convicted for marijuana possession, well, that`s not the worst
root to a good outcome.

Mike Beebe is the governor of a state that is home to almost one
percent of the population of the United States, so his pardon jurisdiction
is about one percent the size of President Obama`s pardon jurisdiction.

But Governor Beebe has issued a hundred times more pardons than
President Obama has. One of the great mysteries of the Obama presidency is
why the president has issued only 52 pardons.

The smallest number of presidential pardons issued in Barack Obama`s
lifetime has been issued by President Barack Obama. No other president has
had the up-close experience as a community organizer where he could bear
personal witness to the difficulties of convicted felons trying to make
their way in the workplace.

As a law student and as a law professor, he had a strong sense of the
scope of wrongful convictions in this country. When the last Democratic
president left office, he created the ugliest pardon scandal in modern
presidential history.

Bill Clinton`s final days in office were spent rushing out pardons at
the request of campaign donors and an unsavory collection of petitioners.

The Democratic Party was rocked by that scandal and it is
understandable that the next Democratic president would have the Clinton
pardon scandal in mind and would not want to take any action that would
remind voters of that.

But Bill Clinton`s pardon scandal is now 14 years old. And Barack
Obama`s -- and Barack Obama is not running for office again.

We can hope that the approaching Christmas season will be the
beginning of what should be a surge of well-earned pardons issued wisely
and mercifully by President Barack Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

And, now, for the "Good News," two Dallas city workers --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- saw a truck run into a creek near their work site and they jumped
into action. As the truck was filling with water, they worked to pull the
man out. And it was all caught on video.

Reporter Julie Fine from NBC`s Dallas Station has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAUL ALAMILLO, CITY WORKER WHO SAVED A MAN FROM DROWNING: I saw
something moving in the truck. Somebody`s in there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIE FINE, NBC DALLAS REPORTER (voice-over): Raul Alamillo saw it
from the road, the truck submerged in water, the driver trapped inside.

And seconds later, he and several other city workers jumped in to help
only to find it was someone they knew.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALAMILLO: He`s a really good friend of mine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FINE: One worker shared this cell phone video with us. They quickly
started trying to get him out, as did Oscar Andrade who was also driving
by.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OSCAR ANDRADE, HELPED SAVED A MAN FROM DROWNING: So, we drove into
this parking lot and we ran in here and just, you know, started doing our
thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FINE: They were on the back, trying to help get him out as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDRADE: I mean, I don`t even know how to swim. And the truck
started sliding more into the creek. I was like, "Oh my God," but, oh
well, we had to get him out first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FINE: Everyone there says it looks like a medical situation. Here,
you see Alamillo finally able to break that window and get to the victim
and bring him out.

They wrapped him with blankets while waiting for help. And, after
that, went back to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Went back to work. The driver is recovering in the
hospital but is expected to be OK.

Coming up next, why Russian President Vladimir Putin will be flying
bombers over all those Disney cruise ships in the Caribbean.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Only a day after President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin
met --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- at the APEC Summit in Beijing, the Russian Defense Minister
announced that Russia will send long-range bombers on regular patrolled
missions across the globe, including in the Caribbean and the Gulf of
Mexico.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

The Russian Defense Minister said yesterday, --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- "The current situation we have to maintain military presence in the
Western Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, as well as Caribbean and the Gulf of
Mexico."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

According to the "Associated Press," he also said, "planes would
conduct --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- reconnaissance missions to monitor foreign powers, military
activities and maritime communications."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

The announcement of these flights came in with accusations from NATO
that Russia was continuing to fuel the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, TOP RATED U.S. AIR FORCE COMMANDER: We have
seen pounds of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian
artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops entering
into Ukraine.

Forces, money, support, supplies, and weapons are flowing back and
forth across this border, completely at will. And that is not a good
situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: A recent study conducted by a British research group shows
that since the Russian annexation of Crimea in March, there had been almost
--

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- 40 incidents involving Russian and western militaries, many far
from Russian territory. One of those was on May 9th when a Russian
aircraft approached within 50 miles of the California Coast, the closest
such Russian Military flight since the Cold War.

Joining me now is Nina Khrushcheva a professor of --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

-- International Affairs at The New School. She is the great
granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev. Nina, the Caribbean -- Vladimir Putin
is worried what Martinique is up to and has to fly bombers over Caribbean
Islands?

NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, THE NEW SCHOOL:
He does. Because if western troops, NATO troops are on the border of
Russia or on the bordering countries of Russia and, in fact, NATO continues
to be --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- threatening to be expanding, Putin feels that it`s his right to go
to the Western Hemisphere as well. So, from his perspective, he`s not
doing anything. And, in fact, it`s the West`s fault.

O`DONNELL: But it is a wild waste of jet fuel to be flying over the
Virgin Islands. It`s just such an absurd location to suggest that there
is, somehow, a threat to Moscow.

KHRUSHCHEVA: Good message though. It is a wild --

O`DONNELL: What`s the good message.

KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, look, propaganda is very expensive. And Putin is
very good at propaganda. And his propaganda is -- "If you can do something
to us, and whatever happens, is happening between Ukraine and Russia right
now, is that you did to us, the West did to us. The West did not recognize
our influence in Ukraine."

"And, therefore, we are retaliating. So, we`re showing you that, in
fact, if you continue to provoke us, we are going to provoke you back."
And this is a very good propaganda message.

O`DONNELL: So, there`s a Russian voter out there --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

-- who says, "Oh, great. Vladimir has got bombers flying over Tortola
just in case. I mean, that`s in the area where there is no military.

KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, there isn`t. But, you know, who knows geography
nowadays.

(LAUGHTER)

We`re all on Twitter. That`s all we know maps of, just a little
condiment to things that we discuss. So, but he`s in the Western
Hemisphere.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

He`s going to show those Americans.

O`DONNELL: Uh-hmm.

KHRUSHCHEVA: And that`s what he does. And he really learned very
well from his Soviet predecessors, that you need to show force in response
to the perceived show of force from the West, from the United States
particularly.


O`DONNELL: Why aren`t the sanctions getting more of a positive
response out of Putin. I mean, why aren`t they working in other words.

KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, actually, they are working and because if they
were not working, this incursions would be much more forceful. And they
will not be incursions. They would probably be more --

O`DONNELL: In Ukraine, for --

KHRUSHCHEVA: In Ukraine, for example.

O`DONNELL: So, you think those sanctions actually held him --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KHRUSHCHEVA: Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: -- in place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KHRUSHCHEVA: And I think that`s why we had a meeting in Milan with a
European leaders. And then, of course, then he was late for three hours.

But we did have that meeting. There was a conversation with Petro
Persian for the Ukrainian president.

So, they are working but they are just not working the way you do in
the United States, things that shoot, that is. We told Putin how to
behave.

He said, "OK." And it`s just going to deescalate right very second.

O`DONNELL: Right.

KHRUSHCHEVA: It`s not going to. It just means that he`s going to
make two steps forward, one step backward. And that`s how this incursive
war continues to exist.

O`DONNELL: Nina Khrushcheva, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. Chris Hayes is up next.

END

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




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


Sponsored links

Resource guide