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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, May 21st, 2015

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Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: May 21, 2015
Guest: M.L. Nestel, Kevin Curran, Tom Shales


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I mean, nine years ago, Laura Bush -- OK, so
there is the foot work and the jump rope routine, there`s her form on the
incline bench press -- well, those are 35-pound dumb-bells, one in each
hand.

The round-house kick while boxing? I mean, nine years ago, Laura Bush was
talking about the long walks and the three-pound weights.

Now, the first lady is doing roundhouse kicks on a heavy bag, and the heavy
bag is worse for it. I`m not saying one workout is better than the other.

I`m just saying in a world where we have spent the last 30 years fawning
over the fitness exploits of people in the White House and around it.

The first lady of the United States right now just kicked everybody`s butt.
Seriously. That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again tomorrow, I`m
going to the gym. Now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: The "New York Times" has obtained
over 300 pages of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails and posted all of them online
and Clinton critics could not be more disappointed.

Also in the news tonight, something David Chase and The Sopranos writers
never thought of a New Jersey strip joint secretly owned by federal agents
who are now facing federal charges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I want those e-mails out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve got mail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The "New York Times" has just published 349 pages of
e-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No smoking guns, no bombshells.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From Hillary Clinton`s private e-mail accounts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty silly to me that she thought, you know, using a
Gmail account was acceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We see Republicans trying to do with these e-mails is
establish a pattern of secrecy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But really, I don`t care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So many Republican candidates --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to fit 19 candidates on one single stage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So little room on the debate stage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re going to play music and they`re going to just
walk around the podium.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re going to see a real fight for those last few
spots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the music will stop, and I`ll tell you this, Chris
Christie is going to get a podium.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s our final show, ladies and gentlemen --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our long, national nightmare is over.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Letterman is retiring.

DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: It`s beginning to look like
I`m not going to get "The Tonight Show" --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And OK --

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Broke the window, again!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another hugely disappointing series finale.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN O`BRIEN, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: He`s been the north star for me
and for every comic of my generation.

LETTERMAN: Do me a favor, save a little for my funeral, all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK --

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Thank you for everything, you`ve given me everything --

(APPLAUSE)

And thank you again.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today, the "New York Times" posted on its website 349 pages of
former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s e-mails related to the attack
in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three
other Americans.

The e-mails obtained by the "New York Times" had already been handed over
to a special house committee investigating the Benghazi attacks.

Joining us now, Beth Fouhy, a senior editor at Msnbc and host of
"REPORTER`S NOTEBOOK" on shift by Msnbc.

Eugene Robinson, columnist for "The Washington Post" and an Msnbc political
analyst and Robert Costa, a national political reporter for "The Washington
Post".

Robert, so as I read the "New York Times" reveal of these e-mails, they
came kind of as close as you could to -- could -- in an introductory
paragraph to saying we got these e-mails from the Benghazi committee.

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Without
knowing too much about the sourcing, we`re seeing the Clinton camp trying
to get ahead of this story.

They believe they`ve had a pretty good rollout so far. I`m here in New
Hampshire, Secretary Clinton will be here tomorrow. She was in Iowa
earlier this week.

The people she`s talking to on the trail, they`re not asking about the e-
mails, but the press continues to ask those questions, she`s trying to get
ahead of it.

O`DONNELL: And Eugene, there`s nothing to get ahead of so far as we`ve
been studying these e-mails today.

And, you know, the "Times" makes very clear in its opening paragraph the
Benghazi committee already got these e-mails and now we, the "New York
Times" have these e-mails.

And then also, they`re all on their -- they`re all kind of rolling out now
according to this judge`s --

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Recent decision. And so --

ROBINSON: OK --

O`DONNELL: We`re going to be having, I suppose, every few days some speed-
reading of Hillary`s e-mails.

ROBINSON: Yes, I mean, so far, from what we see today, now, we`re going to
try to make this segment as interesting as we can, and as lively as we can.
But they`re kind of --

O`DONNELL: Yes, keep -- Eugene, keep the ball in the air, please, keep the
ball in the air about these highly --

ROBINSON: I`m doing my best --

O`DONNELL: Controversial e-mails.

ROBINSON: I am doing my best, Lawrence. But you know, the e-mails so far
show that the Secretary of State got a lot of different advice from
different people and she considered it and she wrote them back and that
seems to be it.

O`DONNELL: And Beth --

COSTA: Well --

O`DONNELL: There`s stuff in here about -- in today`s dispatch of it,
there`s stuff in here about Sidney Blumenthal who was kind of famously --
within Washington anyway, barred from entering government service during
the Obama administration.

They let -- you know, Secretary Clinton have a lot of appointments in the
State Department, but not Sidney Blumenthal -- kept him out.

And so we see him directly e-mailing Secretary Clinton about Benghazi and
certainly some of the stuff that he e-mailed to her turned out to be right
and very informative.

BETH FOUHY, SENIOR EDITOR, MSNBC: Yes, but you know, this whole re-
bringing up of Sidney Blumenthal in this campaign is just giving -- once
again, giving this whole campaign this feeling of being sort of back to the
future.

We`re looking back to the `90s, back to the "Macarena", it`s a -- it`s this
weird sort of time warp for those of us who went through the Clinton
impeachment and so on in the `90s.

Sidney Blumenthal we learned then, very close friend of the Clintons, a
real confidant, also somebody who is a little bit paranoid, he was -- who
is -- who is prone to conspiracy theories.

We see this a little bit in the e-mails that were released today, that he`s
got an angle, he`s sort of always looking for an angle around what happened
in Benghazi.

And the secretary seemed very interested in his opinion on that matter.
Now, we -- the "New York Times" has also reported that Sidney Blumenthal at
the time had some business interests in Libya, so maybe his hands weren`t
entirely, you know, non-involved when he was talking to Hillary Clinton
about all of this.

But I`m going to agree with Gene. I mean, there really isn`t much that`s
all that interesting in these e-mails.

And -- OK, so she gets an e-mail from an old friend who thinks he`s got an
interesting angle or a way to take a look at -- that`s the things that`s
surrounding the Benghazi incident.

And she read them and sometimes she passed them along and sometimes she
didn`t. It really wasn`t all that damning.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Robert Costa --

COSTA: Well, they made it --

O`DONNELL: What we saw -- go ahead Robert, go ahead.

COSTA: Well, my whole take away is, sure, there`s nothing perhaps
interesting per se in the actual text of the e-mails.

But I`ve been calling around these Republican campaigns and talking to
different Republican strategists.

I said, OK, you`re not going to maybe use the e-mails directly in a
campaign ad, but what does this all mean? What does it mean that is coming
out for you as a Republican strategist?

And they said, we`re not sure how exactly we`re going to go after Secretary
Clinton`s record at the State Department. We`re not sure how much the
Benghazi stuff would stick, if at all.

And so they still need to make some kind of broader case about her time in
Foggy Bottom and about her character. So they know most voters don`t know
who Sidney Blumenthal is.

But they`re trying to make her associations slowly, but surely become a
story.

O`DONNELL: The -- what Sidney Blumenthal does, as we`ve seen so far in the
e-mails is, because he`s been doing business in Libya, which is the kind of
-- the part of this that doesn`t look particularly good for Secretary
Clinton.

That she`s hearing from someone who has business interest in Libya at the
time. But what he`s done -- he e-mails right away about Benghazi, saying
the original theory, which -- oh, this is all about that video that was
released on YouTube, that made in the United States and this is reaction to
that.

But within 24 hours, he is the first one to say to Secretary Clinton, no,
this has been planned for months, this was not about the video, this was an
al Qaeda-planned event, they were looking for this opportunity.

And so, Gene, it`s one of those things where, you know, all you get to
cling to is, isn`t there something wrong with Sidney Blumenthal e-mailing
the Secretary of State?

ROBINSON: Yes, I think if I was going to try to plan an attack strategy
around these e-mails, I would go very broad and very vague.

And I would go back to the -- to the question of what was the Secretary of
State doing with a Gmail account and why didn`t she have an official e-mail
account and, you know, who are these shadowy people who are giving her
advice?

And I would stay away from the specifics because the specifics don`t really
tell us very much. And frankly, I -- you know, as Robert said, nobody
really knows who Sid Blumenthal is.

I mean, he`s not like the, you know, a huge public figure in I think the
public imagination. So, there is a challenge here for those Republican
strategists to sort of make chicken salad out of this.

FOUHY: Yes, but Lawrence --

O`DONNELL: And Gene --

FOUHY: Lawrence --

O`DONNELL: Go ahead Beth --

FOUHY: One thing to know is that, tomorrow the State Department has
indicated that they are going -- there`s a very good chance that they are
going to release a bunch of these e-mails.

They have been ordered by a federal judge to sort of gradually roll out her
e-mails and they, perhaps, are going to do so tomorrow, on a Friday before
Memorial Day.

Because that`s not thrilling a lot of people who -- reporters who are going
to be combing through these things. But we -- you know, we could see more
than what came out in today`s tranche.

And there might be some grist for the mill for Republicans then. That`s
what everybody is going to be looking for in this big tranche that the
State Department is expected to release very soon.

O`DONNELL: And just to complete the picture of what happened with the
Sidney Blumenthal e-mails.

In every one of them we`ve seen so far, what Secretary Clinton does is just
look at them and forward them to someone else at the State Department
basically saying, you know, look at this.

There is nothing where she`s saying, here, act on what Sidney Blumenthal
just told us. This is what we`re going to now use for State Department
policy.

There is one Republican candidate who has found his voice on the release of
these e-mails. Let`s listen to what Chris Christie has to say about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: If I had come out the day after the
bridgegate thing had -- was announced, and said, by the way, all my e-mails
are on a private server and I deleted a whole bunch of them and I destroyed
the server.

But you need to take my word for it, the e-mails had nothing to do with the
bridge stuff. Can you only imagine what the reaction had been?

Yet today, we don`t even talk about the e-mail situation with Secretary
Clinton any more, it`s like it went away. And -- so, I do believe that
there is an absolute bias and a rush to judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Robert Costa --

FOUHY: It`s totally ridiculous. It`s totally ridiculous. We talk about
them all the time with the media --

O`DONNELL: No, but I mean here is what`s --

(CROSSTALK)

FOUHY: Talking about them.

O`DONNELL: But here is what`s great about this. Here is Chris Christie
reminding everyone of bridgegate and all --

ROBINSON: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Of the bad --

ROBINSON: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Stuff that went on --

ROBINSON: Yes --

O`DONNELL: In his administration. Robert Costa, is he that tone deaf that
he doesn`t understand that he is the one person who can`t bring this up in
that way and, if he does, he can never use bridgegate as the model?

COSTA: Look, Christie has been damaged in the polls in New Jersey. He has
low standing nationally with many Republicans. For him to bring up
bridgegate, I`m not sure of the exact political strategy there.

However, it`s interesting of all the campaigns that seem to be seizing on
the e-mails as a potent political issue, it`s Jeb Bush.

The former Florida governor believes because he has this reputation for
releasing e-mails, perhaps not all of his personal e-mails, but a lot of e-
mails from his time as governor.

He can present a contrast, whether that works or not, we`ll have to see.

O`DONNELL: Eugene, I just love Chris Christie thinking that -- this is an
opportunity for me to jump --

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: Yes --

O`DONNELL: In here with this --

ROBINSON: I know --

O`DONNELL: Brilliant observation.

ROBINSON: I know, look, but minus the bridgegate stuff, which no one --
and no one should ever have let him mention, some aide should have pulled
the cord of the microphone when he started -- when he said the word
bridgegate.

But minus that, I think he got the rest of it right. Which would -- he was
vague, he was atmospheric, he was -- he talked about the server, he didn`t
talk about the content.

Because so far, with the content, there`s not much to go after, it`s the
sort of big picture and I think that`s the way that probably Jeb Bush will
go after.

O`DONNELL: Well, if they`re going to try to tarnish Hillary Clinton,
they`re going to need someone other than Chris Christie to be their -- be
their soldier for that.

(LAUGHTER)

Beth Fouhy, thank you --

COSTA: I think, and she --

O`DONNELL: Very much for joining us --

COSTA: And she`s defined, Lawrence --

O`DONNELL: Yes --

COSTA: She`s defined --

O`DONNELL: Beth Fouhy, thanks very much --

COSTA: If I was on the --

O`DONNELL: For joining us --

(CROSSTALK)

COSTA: Campaign trail this week.

O`DONNELL: All right, now we`re all going to stop talking because these
satellites are confusing when we all do that. Coming up, so many
candidates and not enough podiums.

A look at Republican candidates who might not be allowed in the
presidential campaign debates. And it turns out a couple of federal agents
liked The Sopranos way too much.

They actually bought a strip club in New Jersey to be just like Tony.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: A grand jury has indicted six Baltimore police officers in the
killing of Freddie Gray. Baltimore City State`s Attorney Marilyn Mosby
said tonight that her team has received additional information and some
charges have been revised based upon that evidence.

A reckless endangerment charge has been added for all six officers. Three
officers had one count of second degree assault dropped, those same three
officers had a false imprisonment charge dropped.

The most serious of the charges stuck for all of the officers; the driver
of the van transporting Freddie Gray still faces second degree murder.

The other five officers face at least one count of second degree assault.
Four of the six officers also face one count of involuntary manslaughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARILYN MOSBY, STATE ATTORNEY, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: Now that a grand jury
has also found probable cause to charge the aforementioned officers based
upon the evidence.

These officers who are presumed innocent until proven guilty are now
scheduled to be arraigned on July 2nd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Coming up, new rules for Republican presidential campaign
debates, rules that will crush the hopes of the most desperate and
entertaining candidates.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: "Cnn" has announced the Republican presidential primary debate
on Wednesday, September 16th, will be divided into two segments.

One for the candidates in the top ten of recent polls and the second one
for everyone else who is polling at 1 percent or above.

"Fox News", which will host the first Republican debate on Thursday, August
6th in Cleveland announced that only Republicans who average in the top ten
of the five most recent national polls can participate.

If that debate were held today, here are the Republicans you would not see.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLY FIORINA, FORMER BUSINESS EXECUTIVE, AT&T: Hillary Clinton must not
be president of the United States, but not because she is a woman. She
must not be president of the United States because she is not trustworthy.

She lacks a track record of leadership and her policies will crush the
potential of this nation.

(APPLAUSE)

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: President Obama accused us of clinging
to our guns and religion.

Well, in Louisiana, like in Iowa, we`ve got plenty of guns and religion,
and Mr. President, we`re not giving up either one of those just because you
don`t like them.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If I`m president of the United
States, and you`re thinking about joining al Qaeda or ISIL -- anybody
thinking about that?

I`m not going to call a judge, I`m going to call a drone and we will kill
you.

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE PATAKI, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: I was governor on September 11th
and I saw the horrible consequences of our believing that since Islam was
thousands of miles away, that we didn`t have to worry about it in America,
and that was a tragic mistake we cannot make again.

RICK SANTORUM, FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR: They want to bring back a
seventh century version of Islam. And so here is my suggestion. We load
up our bombers and we bomb them back to the seventh century.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now for the political discussion is Caitlin Huey-
Burns, political reporter for "RealClearPolitics". Caitlin, what is going
on with "Cnn"?

They say they`re going to somehow get the top ten in and then give what to
the people who aren`t in the top ten?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right, it`s
kind of this two-tiered system. Some people are calling it a grown-ups
table and a kids table.

(LAUGHTER)

So, if you`re polling within the top ten, you participate in one segment
and all the others kind of go next.

Now, that`s kind of an odd way to do things, but it does ensure that all
candidates running, and there are a lot of them, and a lot of them
potentially cut from other debates to provide room for.

And if you`re running in the lower tier, you really need these kinds of
debates to gain momentum, to get as much oxygen, as much face time with the
public as you can.

That`s kind of the irony of the cutoff here.

O`DONNELL: So let me just go back to the kids table thing here. The --
so, is it all going to be in the same night?

Is "Cnn" going to do an hour or hour and a half with the top ten and then
do less time or something with the -- at the kids table?

HUEY-BURNS: Right, but that`s the understanding. And it`s my
understanding --

O`DONNELL: OK --

HUEY-BURNS: That the kids table actually go first and then the others will
go after that.

O`DONNELL: Oh, that`s interesting --

HUEY-BURNS: Certainly it`ll be interesting --

O`DONNELL: Oh, OK, I don`t know, how we tell the difference, Eugene?
Should they have like smaller podiums for the kids table group or --

(LAUGHTER)

There should be some visual communication there, that these are the --
these are the ones at the bottom of the polls.

ROBINSON: Yes, I think -- I think we can do with the miracle of digital
effects. We can do something to indicate that it`s the kids table.

I wonder if you do poorly, then in the -- at the -- at the grown-ups table,
do you, in the next debate get relegated to the kids table and if you do
well at the kids table, do you get promoted to the -- to the grown-ups
table?

It`s kind of unclear how this is going to work. But you know, it looks to
me like we ran a list of several of those who wouldn`t be in the debate if
it were held tomorrow.

I`m not sure Rick Santorum versus Donald Trump, you know, does that make
any sense? But in general, I think it`s the people that -- you know, that
the voters will want to see.

O`DONNELL: So Robert Costa, this introduces some fascinating campaign
dynamics. Because if I am polling down around number 12, you know, number
12-13.

And what I need to do is get into the top ten. What I need to do as a
campaigner is attack numbers eight, nine and ten, just the people who are
three or four above me, I`m going to knock them out so that I can get up
into the top ten.

And so, this may be a good thing for the people at the top of those polls
like Jeb Bush, like there`s no real point in, you know, attacking him. Let
me get into that top ten.

COSTA: It may not be good for anyone, it could be political chaos. And
this is what the National Republican Leadership, they really are concerned
about -- because this is going to infuriate, Lawrence, as you say, those
people who are 11, 12, 13 who don`t get in.

And they`re going to be angry at the party and they`re going to likely
demand -- from what I hear from their own camps, for the top tier
candidates to perhaps not do the debate or not participate and this is
going to cause more problems for the party.

And then look for a lot of the conservative groups to invite some of these
candidates to have a separate forum.

And so, though the party tried to have more control this time around on the
debates, it could end up having many other forums that are going to be
competing with the main show.

ROBINSON: Yes --

O`DONNELL: I am officially hereby inviting every one of the candidates at
the kids table, every one of them to come here to THE LAST WORD on debate
night or the night after and they will be heard. So Caitlin --

COSTA: I`ll be a moderator with you if you don`t mind.

O`DONNELL: Yes, that would be -- that would be great, that would be great.
That would -- that would work just well.

But you know, one of the things I loved about what Carly Fiorina said,
she`s talking to Republican audience in that clip that we saw.

And she said that Hillary Clinton should not be president not because she`s
a woman. So Carly Fiorina felt that to a Republican audience, I have to
explain that it`s actually OK to be a woman and be president.

I love that, that had to be included in what she had to say to them.

HUEY-BURNS: Well, it`s interesting too. I mean, the Republican dilemma
here is if you make these cuts, you are risking cutting off the only woman
in the Republican field at this point.

And Carly --

O`DONNELL: Yes --

HUEY-BURNS: Fiorina has established herself in this field as the person
who is well equipped, out of all of them, the best equipped to go after
Hillary Clinton because she kind of inoculate herself through -- you know,
by virtue of being a woman.

It also figures to relegate to the sidelines the people that they want to
highlight, the diversity component. Fiorina, of course, also Bobby Jindal
and Ben Carson for example, who is actually polling pretty well.

So that`s another dynamic here.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and Carly Fiorina and her race in California raised more
money than any of these bottom-tier candidates are likely to raise or spend
in their campaigns.

And Eugene, who are you going to miss most from the big table if they do
this, of all the people who are currently polling too low?

ROBINSON: Well, it`s -- you know, it`s hard to say. I mean, you have
Lindsey Graham will say --

O`DONNELL: Yes --

ROBINSON: Anything, right? --

O`DONNELL: Yes --

ROBINSON: So I`m going to miss him. I am certainly going to -- I`m going
to miss Rick Santorum if he doesn`t make the big table, not because I think
he should be -- necessarily be considered a viable presidential candidate.

But look, the guy -- the guy finished second to Mitt Romney last time. So
-- and I think he ought to get some, you know, some props for that.

And maybe they should have the second-tier question the first tier, right?
So, let`s have --

O`DONNELL: There you go --

ROBINSON: The all programs quite -- you know, add -- throw tough questions
at the -- at the top rank and we`ll see how that works out.

O`DONNELL: And Robert Costa, you know that the Democrats are disappointed
at this kind of debate structure.

They want to see, first of all, as crazy-looking a stage and chaotic as
possible with 20 people up there, whatever it takes.

But they also want Rick Santorum tossing bombs that they believe will
alienate independent voters.

COSTA: They may still yet see it. They may not see the whole field right
now on a debate stage, because there`s only going to be so many at "Fox"
and so many in different tiers at the "Cnn" debate.

But because of the way this is now unfolding, because of the way the party
has structured it, they wanted to have it compressed, take control, but it
could end up going months.

This primary could be a battle perhaps even to the convention. It sounds
almost fanciful to say that.

But if these candidates feel like they weren`t given the right opportunity
and they are -- they are furious with the national infrastructure, they
could stay in, go all the way.

O`DONNELL: There`s so many strange things here, Caitlin, like at the
moment John Kasich, if he was a candidate, he would not qualify for a
debate that`s being held in his state.

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. It`s really fascinating, and Robert brought up a
good point there. The other thing about debates is, they can be make or
break for candidates.

So, if you`re someone like Rick Perry who is really depending on these
debates to make his comeback, his mistakes are well-documented by now.

You really want to participate in this forum, you don`t only want to
participate, but you want to have some room to talk and make your point.
So that`s another thing to consider.

But right, the other point with Kasich is, you know, what if someone like
him looks at this dynamic here and realizes, I`m not going to make the
debate, maybe my poll numbers aren`t going to increase.

Maybe I won`t run. So I would be interested to see whether the debate
criteria cut -- deter anyone from actually getting in.

O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s it, that`s a hugely important point because debates
have been used in the past to just pole vault up, you know, ten points
sometimes in those polls.

Caitlin Huey-Burns, Eugene Robinson and Robert Costa, thank you all for
joining me tonight.

HUEY-BURNS: Thank you --

ROBINSON: Thanks --

COSTA: All right.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, in New Jersey, this really happened. Federal agents
bought and secretly owned a strip club in New Jersey.

They`ve been watching too many Sopranos episodes, too many bada bing
scenes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES GANDOLFINI, ACTOR: You did a hell of a job, coach.

STEVEN VAN ZANDT, ACTOR: Welcome to the bada bing. Everything`s on the
house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: The Twins Go-Go Lounge is just your
average bada bing-style New Jersey strip club, except that it`s run by two
employees of the the drug enforcement administration.

In a Manhattan courtroom yesterday, David Polos, a former D.E.A. agent, and
Glen Glover, a D.E.A. I.T. specialist, was charged with lying about their
ownership of the club during a national security background check.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

The criminal complaint says, many of the club`s dancers were undocumented
immigrants and alleges prostitution took place. An attorney for one of the
defendants told reporters, quote, "We believe these charges are unwarranted
and meritless."

If convicted, the two men could face up to --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

-- five years in prison. One D.E.A. source told "The Daily Beast," quote,
"Sometimes, people screw up and do stupid things."

Joining me now is M.L. Nestel, Senior Correspondent for "The Daily Beast,"
and the guy who got the best quote ever about --

(LAUGHTER)

-- criminal defendants, "Sometimes, people screw up and do stupid things."
How stupid is this. I mean, I`m just stunned by everything I`ve read in
your report about it.

And the fact that it all comes out because they`re being asked under oath,
as these background checks are under oath, about things they own, various
things in their lives, and they leave this out, which is, in effect,
perjury, right, which has them in federal court now.

M.L. NESTEL, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: They`re facing five
years. This is real prison time that they could be facing. This is
serious charges.

It`s a boilerplate, fill-in-the-blank background check for their security
clearance. And what ended up happening is --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- they omitted, obviously, intentionally, their association with this go-
go dancing club. And we should be clear, it`s a go-go dancing clubs.
There`s tops on, but tops come off in the lap dance room.

O`DONNELL: Well, according to your report and the --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

-- indictment, a lot more than that happens.

(LAUGHTER)

They actually --

NESTEL: That`s true.

O`DONNELL: And there`s a bunch of quotes in there about sex, and people
having sex, and one of these guys texting someone about, "Don`t let her use
that chair because it`s not for having sex," with whoever it is.

NESTEL: Yes.

O`DONNELL: So, this is -- this is as wild as it gets in those places.

NESTEL: The hanky panky that was going on in this place is an amazing --
it`s almost, you know, beyond -- you couldn`t really concoct this.

The leaf -- you know, people coming in --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- they pass through. There`s really no security at the door. You see
these two, basically, nose tackles at the back, pass through there, and
that`s where the games go on.

And what we understand is they had cameras trained on whatever sexcapades
were happening back there. And it looked like there was a lot because, at
the end of the night, there are condoms decorating --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

-- the floors. And, unfortunately, what happens with these guys is they`re
-- they get in business, they`re clearly -- they`re D.E.A. agents.

One of the them is an I.T. guy. The other guys is pretty high up. He`s a
assistant agent -- an agent in-charge, assistant agent in-charge.

They are tasked with being -- you know, they`re flouting the law because
they`re under oath and they -- on the side, they`re moonlighting as
Humphrey Bogart.

They are trying to run this pretty sleazy operation. And what ends up
happening is, like you said, the sex in the back is -- is -- is -- is --
unbelievable because you have foreign smuggled-in young women.

They are paid by the night with, mostly, dollar bills stuffed into their --
their -- their -- their --

O`DONNELL: Yes, we know. Yes, we get it, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

NESTEL: Yes, it`s --

O`DONNELL: No -- so, they`ve got undocumented workers in there you know,
and they`re just wildly out of control. Do we have any insight as to why
they thought, and working for the D.E.A., they would be able to pull this
off, they`d be able to get away with it.

NESTEL: It`s interesting because David Polos, who`s the higher up -- Dan
Glover is the I.T. guy -- Polos is a little less cavalier. Dan Glover,
he`s the guy that`s, you know, writing the e-mails.

He`s got a way of being very sardonic. He also puts in his W-2 form,
essentially, that he`s accepting monies from this bar.

Polos didn`t want his name attached to any paper. He didn`t want any paper
trail.

But they`re using their D.E.A. cell phone, they`re constantly on D.E.A.`s
dime. They are being sent to go to all these places.

And, all the time, it`s basically pretty twisted enterprise going on the
whole time.

O`DONNELL: So, quickly, is this club shutdown now.

NESTEL: No, they are wide open, very much.

O`DONNELL: Open for business tonight in New Jersey.

NESTEL: Yes, right now. They are open tonight. I was there last night
and they are definitely open.

They`re open for as long as -- you know, until it gets shut. And that
could happen.

O`DONNELL: Only in New Jersey, federal agents owning this thing. M.L.
Nestel, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

NESTEL: It`s a real pleasure, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: We appreciate it.

NESTEL: Thank you, sir.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, The Weather Channel`s Jim Cantore with --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- an amazing way of looking inside tornadoes and the damage that they can
do, just some incredible video.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

here is something I just learned from my teleprompter -- no country in the
world has more tornadoes than the United States, which averages 1,300 per
year.

The Weather Channel`s Jim Cantore has an explanation like you`ve never
seen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM CANTORE, METEROLOGIST, THE WEATHER CHANNEL: Let`s talk about the
anatomy of a tornado. It starts with a super cell, a rotating
thunderstorm.

But on these tornadoes, there is one thing that clearly stands out,
especially when we look at radar. It is called a hook echo.

And that hook echo is a little appendage on the southern flank of the
storm. We know that these storms aren`t flat.

They`re in the vertical -- 40, 50, 60,000 feet, so let`s pull this thing up
and look at it. Because when you look at this big rotating thunderstorm,
and as massive as it is, look at what`s going on down here.

Look at that tornado. So, just a small part. But the most violent part of
that super cell is right there in that tornado.

So, let`s lift the face of this and talk a little bit about tornado
genesis. Because a lot of the research over the past several years has
gone into what actually kicks off the tornado for the super cell.

Well, there`s one thing that stands out. You can sometimes see this when
you`re in the field.

It is called the Rear Flank Downdraft. It`s when the upper level winds get
caught in the downdraft, they come through the backside.

And if that Rear Flank Downdraft isn`t super cold, it can actually allow a
tornado form, especially when you have, on the eastern side, that warm,
moist air.

So, warm, most air, cool outflow in the backside of that, you see the
rotation going on and, voila, we`ve got ourselves a tornado.

Preceding a tornado, there`s another feature we have to talk about. And
you saw it on the video that we just. It`s a wall cloud.

It`s the base of the thunderstorm, beginning to lower, tremendous violent
motion. Sometimes, these whole wall clouds are rotating. Sometimes, you
just see the air coming up into the wall cloud.

But, when the wall cloud starts to produce a funnel, and whether that
funnel is on the ground or not as a tornado, the problem is is when you see
debris on the ground, you know you`ve got a tornado.

And the debris cloud is the last place you want to be. Because, within
that, you`ve got trees, you`ve got homes, you`ve got cars. And, sometimes,
you have humans.

And that debris, of course, is being rotated around the storm and,
eventually, centrifuged out. In some of the stronger tornadoes, we see
common features right around that immediate funnel.

And that is upward motion right on the outside of that tornado, followed by
inward motion, seeking motion on the inside. This is an amazing feat of
nature.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: You turn history a notch and that would have been David
Letterman, who started as a weather guy in Indianapolis. But he went
pretty far beyond the weather. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, CBS HOST: Welcome to the "Late Show." I want to tell you
one thing.

I`ll be honest with you, it`s beginning to look like I`m not going to get
"The Tonight Show."

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: "There wasn`t a dry eye in the place." That`s the line you
often read or hear about the big farewells. Well, all the eyes were dry --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- in David Letterman`s farewell last night, especially Dave`s. He never
cracked. He kept smiling and he kept us laughing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

The last deeply emotional moment on Dave`s stage came from Norm
McDonald last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORM MACDONALD, STAND-UP COMEDIAN AND ACTOR: Not for the mockish and he
has -- he has no truck for the sentimental. But if something is true, it
is not sentimental, and I say in truth, I love you.

LETTERMAN: Oh, wow.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Oh, my God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The subject of last night`s star-studded top 10 list was
"Things I`ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE MARTIN, ACTOR: Your extensive plastic surgery was a necessity.

(LAUGHTER)

And a mistake.

(LAUGHTER)

CHRIS ROCK, ACTOR: I`m just glad your show is being given to another white
guy.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

TINA FEY, ACTRESS: Thanks for finally proving men can be funny.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Dave did 11 minutes of thank yous before handing the show over
to the music of the Foo Fighters --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

-- and the high-speed montage of decades of Dave. Here were David
Letterman`s --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

-- last words to his audience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN: Throughout the years of this show and the show at NBC, I had
been blessed and lucky to work with men and women who are smarter than I am
and funnier than I am.

The people who watched this show, there`s nothing I can do to ever repay
you. Thank you for everything. You`ve given me everything.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And thank you again. All right, that`s pretty much all I got. The only
thing I have left to do, for the last time, on a television program, thank
you and good night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, one of those guys who Dave says is smarter and
funnier, --

(LAUGHTER)

-- former "Letterman" writer, Kevin Curran. Also joining us by phone,
Pulitzer Prize winning television critic and "Daily Beast" contributor, Tom
Shales.

Tom Shales, I`m so glad you could join us tonight after that final show.
First of all, Tom, your review of Dave`s --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

-- final show.

TOM SHALES, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST (via telephone): Very
entertaining, which is what he would want it to be. And, as you said, not
emotional, particularly.

There wasn`t -- I`m not sure both of the eyes in my house are dry.

(LAUGHTER)

I got a little emotional. Because, you know, he impacted the culture, to
use that dull academic language.

He really -- that show, even though it wasn`t number one, and contrary to a
lot of stuff, the top 10 list and the expressions he used and the whole
attitude he represented, the idea of sound comedy and all that, using real
people instead of scripting everything, and all those things and many more
will be influencing comedy for years and years to come, and will be
imitated for years to come.

I just don`t think the imitators are likely to be as good as Dave was. I
do wonder if some of that stuff about, "All these people are more talented
than I am," and "I`m just dope and I just do a job," I think that`s false
modesty. It`s a bit of a pose.

I think Dave thinks pretty highly of himself. But he doesn`t like to say
those things out loud.

It`s a kind of a Midwestern trait, I think. And so, he keeps talking
himself down, self-deprecating remarks, and so on.

But he was -- he`s one of the great entertainers, I think, in the history
of the medium.

O`DONNELL: Kevin, talk about how Dave feels about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Because my impression from you writers, who I`ve known forever, is that
Dave -- I get the impression he was never really satisfied with any given
show, that he was only thinking, "Oh, this could be --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

-- better. This could be better." And pushing for it to be better.

KEVIN CURRAN, FORMER WRITER, LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: I think
that`s definitely true. He`s a guy that has a perfectionist streak, too.

O`DONNELL: Perfectionist, yes.

CURRAN: Yes, and he`s very, very hard on himself.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

CURRAN: I was just reading an article recently where he said, the
motivating factors in his life were guilt and fear of failure, --

O`DONNELL: Yes.

CURREN: -- which is -- I guess, motivation is for lots of us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

But for someone who is actually funnier and smarter than anyone else I`ve
ever met, it`s pretty amazing.

O`DONNELL: Yes, yes. Tom, this show`s place in history where -- I`m
sitting here with Kevin Curran. He won three Emmys there.

Other writers who were there longer won more Emmys there. The show was
nominated --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

-- I tried to figure out how to describe how much this show was nominated.
It won the Emmy for Best Show in its category several times. I lost track
of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

But it`s more than Emmys, Tom. And what you`ve written about the show, it
really had a huge generational impact.

SHALES: Yes. And I hate to be gloomy about it but I do have a sad feeling
we`re seeing that last -- not just the "David Letterman Show," but, well,
he was like the last of his generation, I think to be that big a star on
television.

Television has, you know, splattered up into a million channels and then,
instead of three networks which we had 50 years ago when Dave was growing
up, and I was, you know, now, we have a woodworking channel and a trout-
fishing channel and all of that.

And I don`t we`re going to have that kind of unity we had -- and this is
really a truism, by this point, -- that we had with Dave.

And, you know, it was even greater than Johnny Carson. When Johnny said
good night, I think there were like 15 million viewers.

When Dave said good night, there were like 13, 15 million viewers, less
than half. And that`s no reflection on Dave.

It`s just the way the medium has changed. And, of course, the fact that
the Internet has intervened and has splattered us all with all these other
new choices.

So, the whole -- the whole kind of consensus culture that Dave, somewhat,
represented, like he was the last of it, I think. I don`t think we`re
going to have it as much anymore.

I don`t know if there`ll even be another "Star Wars" or "Jaws" or movies as
hugely popular as that. I may be wrong and, maybe, I`m overstating the
case.

But I felt very sad as I watching the final "Dave Letterman Show" these
past few weeks. Just very sad about what we were losing.

O`DONNELL: Well, yes. What is absolutely statistically true is that a hit
on television today requires many, many fewer viewers than a hit on
television even just 10 years ago required.

We`re going to go to a break. But before we do, I just want to show
something from last night`s show, which was "Dave with Kids."

And this is actually stuff that I had forgotten. It was all new to me when
I saw it. Let`s watch this as we go out.

LETTERMAN: Try and guess my favorite food. Now, come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD 1: No.

LETTERMAN: Come on, just give it a try. come on. Here, I`ll give you a
hint, all right.

Hi. Try it. Try and guess my favorite food.

MALE CHILD: Hi.

LETTERMAN: Nope.

(LAUGHTER)

Meat loaf.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD 2: I want you you to hold it down at this end like
this.

LETTERMAN: OK, well, you`re down there. Why don`t you do it.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE TEENAGER: No, it`s not dangerous.

LETTERMAN: OK.

FEMALE TEENAGER: Normally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD 3: Dashing through the snow.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

Oh, jingle bells, jingle -- you`ve got to be quiet. You are not, you are
not, you are not funny.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN: Welcome to Taco Bell. What do you want.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`d like two three-cheese melts.

LETTERMAN: OK, OK. Wait a minute, wait a minute, I`m not exactly a
computer. Slow down --

(APPLAUSE)

-- and try it again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Medium Diet Coke.

LETTERMAN: Medium relative to what.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Halfway between the small and the large.

LETTERMAN: OK, kid. We got it. We can do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You sound familiar.

LETTERMAN: I`m the manager, Kenny.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you`re not.

LETTERMAN: Yes, I am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you`re not.

LETTERMAN: Yes, I am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you Howard Stern.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN: People say to me, "Dave, when did you know it was time to
retire." And I said, "Well, there were signs. There`s always signs along
the way."

And I think, one of the signs was Todd, the cue card kid, came up to me and
he said, "For the love of God, Dave, I can`t write the words any bigger."

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

Remember that. OK, all right. Fine, all right.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Kevin Curran, those of us who work in show business know that
it`s very hard to find writers who don`t think they`re way smarter than the
people they`re writing for.

(LAUGHTER)

I don`t know a "Letterman" writer who isn`t full of respect for Dave.

CURRAN: I think that`s -- that`s very true. I don`t know of any, either.
There have been many writers over the years.

It`s just -- there`s something about him that is just -- he`s your older
brother, he`s your mentor, he`s a protection against the network.

He`s a smart and funny guy. And you feel like you`re on the same team with
him. And you feel like you really respect this guy that you`re working
for, which is not always the case.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And, Tom Shales, you`re remedy. You`re hearing that from
writers who, as you know with any writers in comedy, most of the stuff
they`ve offered Dave, he`s rejected.

And they still working for, and they still are in awe of him.

SHALES: And he probably rejects a lot of what he doesn`t felt. Because,
you know, those very funny bits like where he becomes the guy at the drive-
thru window at McDonald`s or wherever they were, you know.

They may -- I don`t know. Maybe they had to shoot for three hours of to
get two minutes of that. I don`t know, but the stuff Dave came up with --
I don`t think was written in advance.

I mean, he had a great mind. Well, he still does, as far as we know. I
mean, he was so fast and so sharp.

And the ad libs were -- they were always from somewhere where you -- you
wouldn`t have ever thought of them yourself.

Maybe some of the great "Letterman" writers would have. But, I mean, most
people, most comedians, I don`t think, would come up with the brilliant,
funny things he said.

And there was a lot of satire in what he did as well, a kind of instant
satire. And they talk about sound comedy, you know.

But you have to know where to look for it. You have to know where you see
it, too. You can`t just find it by wandering down the street.

He had brain instincts. Great instincts.

O`DONNELL: Yes, he did. He did. You know, Rob Burnett, head writer of
the show -- former Head Writer of the show -- said in "The New York Times"
today -- this week, "If Dave were still putting on Velcro suit and jumping
on walls, I think it would be foolish."

I`m not so sure about that. And that`s the way I want to go out of this.
That, as Kevin Curran knows, was written -- "Velcro Man," written by Sandy
Frank, who`s no longer with us. He won four Emmys at the "David Letterman
Show."

And what I want, as our LAST WORD about David Letterman on this program, I
want - by and about David Letterman -- I want it to be Velcroman. Let`s
take one more look at that.

(VIDEO PLAYED)

O`DONNELL: Kevin Curran, Tom Shales, thank you very much for joining us
tonight.

Chris Hayes is up next.

END

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