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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, August 26th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Monday show

August 26, 2013

Guests: Marc Ginsberg, Joe Stork, Adam Liptak, Dahlia Lithwick, Bob Guillo

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: The phrasing has gone from little doubt to
undeniable. Syria and chemical weapons and what President Obama is
planning to do about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Obama administration says there is very little
doubt --

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We believe there is very little
doubt about culpability.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

CARNEY: Did a chemical weapons attack occur?

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What is before us today is real.

CARNEY: The answer to that question is yes.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: President Obama is weighing military options
against Syria.


CARNEY: There is no solution as we have long made clear that includes

POWELL: But at the same time I am less sure of the resistance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In that sense, there`s a big worry.

MITCHELL: Should they let this chemical attack go unanswered?

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I do think action is going to occur.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This morning, a team of U.N. chemical weapons
inspectors arrived in Damascus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots were fired at the U.N. team inside Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their vehicle was deliberately shot at by
unidentified snipers.

KERRY: The U.N. investigation will not determine who used these chemical

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The question remains what might the
intervention look like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s very, very complicated.

CORKER: I don`t want us to change our overall policy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can`t be a unilateral American approach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It deserves an international response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The credibility of the president is on the line here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we getting closer to military intervention in

KERRY: What is before us today is real. Chemical weapons were used in


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

President Obama`s red line in Syria has been crossed. Secretary of State
John Kerry said today it was undeniable that chemical weapons were used in
Syria on August 21st, when rockets unleashed poison gas on a rebel-held
suburb of Damascus, killing hundreds.


KERRY: What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the
world. It defies any code of morality.

Let me be clear: the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of
women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral
obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and
equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.


MELBER: That has not stopped Russian President Vladimir Putin from
claiming there`s no evidence of an attack. Russia is key, of course,
because it is one of five nations with veto power on the U.N. Security

The Obama administration says it has the evidence and Syria`s Assad regime
is to blame.


CARNEY: There is very little doubt that the Syrian regime, the Assad
regime, used those weapons because they have maintained control of the
stockpile of chemical weapons in Syria, they alone have the capacity to use
rockets to deliver chemical weapons.

KERRY: For five days the Syrian regime refused to allow the U.N.
investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly
exonerate them. Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it, and
systematically destroying evidence. That is not the behavior of a
government that has nothing to hide. That is not the action of a regime
eager to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons.


MELBER: And today a van with U.N. weapons inspectors was shot at as it
attempted to enter the attack site to collect evidence.

NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent Richard Engel was able to slip
into Syria today before returning safely back into neighboring Turkey --


has said no final decision has been made. But tonight, there are growing
signs that some sort of military action against Syria in response to what
most people believe was the use of chemical weapons on a massive scale is

Will it be a big operation? Will it last several days? Will the United
States try and spend more time to build a coalition? All of that remains

But from where we stand and the people we`ve been speaking to, it seems
likely that some sort of military response is coming.

(voice-over): U.N. inspectors today in Damascus. One of their vehicles
shot by a sniper. But after a brief delay, they finally began their work,
interviewing survivors, doctors, and taking samples.

But this may already be a sideshow. The U.S. and others already believe
the Assad regime used chemical weapons last week on a scale not seen
anywhere in decades.

So America is once again building a case for military action.

KERRY: There must be accountability for those who would use the world`s
most heinous weapons.

ENGEL: The likely action -- cruise missile strikes from four U.S. Navy
destroyers and two submarines already in the Mediterranean. Possible
targets? Syrian military facilities and weapons systems, planes and
airfields, command and control bunkers, but not, U.S. officials say,
President Assad himself, and not chemical weapons stockpiles. Too risky.

Would it be legal? U.N. backing is unlikely without Russian support. But
a coalition of Arab and European states, along with the U.S. could be used
to justify a strike.

We traveled to northern Syria today with U.S.-backed rebels.

(on camera): Syrians tell us the United States has an enormous
responsibility now. Yes, this isn`t America`s war, and no, these people
here don`t want American troops and for this to become another Iraq. But
they say if the United States doesn`t intervene now, Bashar al-Assad`s
regime will only be encouraged to go further and they believe use chemical
weapons again.

(voice-over): Osama Muwas (ph) arrived at a camp with his wife and 11
children today. Osama told us he came to hide from the poison gas and
didn`t know where else to go.

"It`s a dirty regime," he said.

But the most powerful words came from 10-year-old Sidra (ph), a message she
said she had for President Obama.

"Does he want his kids to be like us? Aren`t we just like them? When we
get bigger, we`re going to write Obama didn`t help us," she said.

But Secretary Kerry made it clear today, the U.S. wants to help and is
preparing to act.

KERRY: The images of entire families, dead in their beds, human suffering
that we could never ignore or forget. Anyone who could claim that an
attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to
check their conscience and their own moral compass.

ENGEL (on camera): The Syrian government, Ari, denies it has ever used
chemical weapons and says this is a fabrication, something that is being
used by the rebels to try and gain international support and sympathy. The
Syrian rebels, however, say this is the 30th time at least since this war
began that the regime has used chemical weapons against the opposition and
that this was just the most flagrant example -- Ari.


MELBER: Thank you to Richard Engel for that reporting.

And joining me now, Marc Ginsberg, a former ambassador to Morocco under
President Clinton and a former White House adviser on Mideast policy. And
for a humanitarian perspective, we`re joined by Joe Stork from the Human
Rights Watch.

Thank you both.

And, Marc, I want to start with you. Give us a sense on the broader
picture of what our relationship has been with Syria up to this point.
They have been labeled a state sponsor of terrorism since the `70s. We
have a lot of conflict here.

What is the predicate for what might be this escalating conflict with the
U.S. versus Syria?

context, Hafez al Assad, Bashar al Assad`s father, had always been a
protagonist against Israel and against the United States in the Middle
East. It has been the number one ally of Iran in the Arab world, the most
important ally of Russia in the Middle East, and an exporter of oil to
China and the number one purchaser of arms from Russia.

So, Syria has been in a league all by itself. As also the first Arab
country to try to build an atomic weapon and has the largest cachet of
chemical weapons in the world besides the United States and Russia, the
largest cachet of chemical weapons.

MELBER: And so, Joe, thinking about that and the use of these weapons,
from a humanitarian perspective before we reach any question of potential
intervention -- where does this attack against the Syrian people line up in
your view compared to other incidents we`ve seen historically?

JOE STORK, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Well, look, what happened last week, on
August 21st, something terrible happened, something that left upwards of
1,000 people dead, almost all of them civilians, non-combatants, men,
women, and children. It certainly appears to us my colleagues were in
touch with people the hours right after the attack, talking with first
responders, talking with victims, talking with doctors. And it certainly -
- the descriptions we were getting, the accounts we were getting were
certainly consistent with some sort of chemical nerve agent.

What we`ve seen coming since in terms of, for instance, dead animals, for
instance not seeing any other signs of trauma on the bodies of the animals
or the people, all of that is consistent with some sort of chemical attack.

MELBER: And let me jump in there and ask you, you know, some people are
comparing this to Iraq using chemical weapons against its own people in
1988. Does this bring that to mind as something as bad as that?

STORK: It certainly does. Of course back then the United States and the
world -- the international community very generally was looking the other
way, was acquiescing in these attacks. I think this is certainly something
that deserves the condemnation of the international community. It deserves
every possible step to bring this -- make sure this kind of thing doesn`t
happen again if at all possible.

MELBER: Right. So, Ambassador, when you look at this on top of what is a
grave situation in Syria, 1.9 million refugees by some accounts, what would
a responsible intervention potentially look like? We heard Richard Engel
talk about some ideas that are on the table. We also know why there is so
much logical resistance to too much American presence in these kinds of

GINSBERG: I think the president`s caution on this is well understood and
well-appreciated because after all, you have so many chemical weapons.
What targets do you choose? And since this is not meant to in effect
involve the United States in the civil war itself but to retaliate for the
regime`s use of chemical weapons, what targets do you hit and will the
targets that you hit effectively send a message to the regime that the West
will no longer accept any use of chemical weapons? That`s the key.

We`re not talking about proportional response. We`re talking about a
punishing response.

And then, what will the Assad regime do? Will it try to in effect attack
Israel? Will it try to expand the conflict? How will Russia react? Those
are all the calculations the administration has to engage in.

MELBER: And yet even though we`re talking about this tonight, I think it`s
very fair to say that the United States population has not heard a great
deal about this as a foreign policy debate or as an intervention debate. I
want to tell you and our viewers, you know, according to a new "Reuters"
poll, when asked whether we should intervene, only about 25 percent of
people lean toward yes, 46 percent say no.

What do you make of that and the effect of that sort of undertow on what
the president can do here?

GINSBERG: Well, let`s face it. The American people are fatigued by
getting involved in conflicts. The president has committed to end the
conflict in Iraq. He did. He`s pulling troops out of Afghanistan. And
Syria is a swamp filled with all sorts of characters that are al Qaeda-
oriented, and then there`s of course a small element of the Free Syrian
rebels. There`s the Iranians there with their revolutionary guards.

But let`s be -- with all of that caution, Ari, we have to understand that
there is an incredible amount of anger and resentment toward the regime for
the use of its chemical weapons. And the fact that the French and the
British and our Arab allies are prepared to back up some military response
I think says enough. And the American people hearing from the president
will understand that that red line was crossed once and for all by the
Syrian Assad regime.

MELBER: And, Joe, a final word from you. What do you think is the right
sort of proper humanitarian or progressive response to what we`re learning?

STORK: Well, I think if there is a military intervention on the part of
the United States there are two key things. First of all, the targeting
and the means of attack and so forth have to be precisely designed to
minimize, absolutely minimize civilian casualties. That includes civilians
who may be living in Assad-controlled territories. And they include
civilians who support Assad in fact.

Secondly, the targeting should also be aimed at protecting civilians to the
extent possible. It shouldn`t just be about punishment. It should also be
about protecting civilians. The 1,000 or so people killed last week are on
top of 100,000 people, most of them civilians, most of them at the hands of
government forces over the last two years. And that`s what really needs to
be kept in mind.

MELBER: All right. Former Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, and Joe Stork of
Human Rights Watch -- thank you both for joining me tonight.

We have a lot more politics coming up, including Colin Powell reminding
Republicans it`s a matter of if and not when voter ID laws will backfire on

And, Ruth Ginsberg describes the Supreme Court as one of the most activist
in history. The man who interviewed her for "The New York Times" will join
us and tell us why she`s not stepping down anytime soon.

And, you don`t want to miss this. The state of New York is, yes, maybe
finally suing Donald Trump because of what customers say Trump University
promised and didn`t deliver.


MELBER: This Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington
and Congressman John Lewis, a key member of that march 50 years ago is
marking the milestone with a new milestone at his own. He`s at the top of
the best-seller list with a graphic novel, "The March Book 1" is now number
one on "The Washington Post" non-fiction list. The trilogy tells the
Georgia Democrat`s story of the civil rights movement. And book 2 and 3
will be released in 2013 and 2015.

Now, up next, support for restoring the Civil Rights Act is coming from an
unlikely place.



JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: We need to understand that this
is the real fight. You know, it is -- the voting booth is the one place
we`re all equal. On Election Day you walk into a voting booth, it doesn`t
matter if you`re white, black, rich, poor.

Doesn`t matter your race, doesn`t matter your sexual orientation. We`re
all equal. Doesn`t matter how much money you have.


DIANIS: And so that is where they`re trying to make the difference to be
able to win.


MELBER: You know, one of the most striking things about the anniversary of
the march on Washington has been watching how these issues that used to
divide America -- integration, equality, voting rights, are now claimed as
ideals by people across the political spectrum. But is it enough to just
salute these ideals or should politicians actually do something about them?
After all, we know the march was designed to push Congress to act? Which
it did -- passing civil rights and voting rights laws the following two

And tonight, we compare the approaches of two modern Republicans at the
center of this debate. First, there`s Jim Sensenbrenner, the Republican in
Congress most responsible for getting the Voting Rights Act renewed seven
years ago.

Speaking to the RNC today, Sensenbrenner says he`s committed to renewing
the law again in response to the Supreme Court.


REP. JIM SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: I am committed to restoring the
voting rights act as an effective tool to prevent discrimination.

With all of the problems that we have, with the budget problems and the
continuing resolution and the debt ceiling and the snooping by the NSA,
this is something that has to be done by the end of the year. It ain`t
going to be easy, but when we all are together, we shall overcome.


MELBER: OK. But here is the problem. Last week, Sensenbrenner asked the
DOJ to stop enforcing part of the Voting Rights Act because he didn`t like
Holder applying it to voter ID hurdles in Texas. DOJ is not going to do
that. And it can`t barter with a member of Congress over lawsuits in order
to get a law passed.

Now, contrast this whole exchange to another moderate Republican, Colin
Powell, who understands that voter ID laws are the civil rights and voter
discrimination issue of our time.


POWELL: You didn`t need a photo ID for decades before. Is it really
necessary now? And they claim there`s widespread abuse and voter fraud.
But nothing documents, nothing substantiates that. There isn`t widespread
abuse. And so these kinds of procedures that are being put in place to
slow the process down and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African-
Americans might vote I think are going to backfire because these people are
going to come out and do what they have to do in order to vote. And I
encourage that.


MELBER: Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt and Karen
Finney, host of MSNBC`s "DISRUPT."

Steve, I want to go to you, because you`ve talked about the fact that many
Republicans have accepted a sort of mythology of voter fraud and gotten
really obsessed with a problem that doesn`t exist, as Colin Powell said.

And look at what Sensenbrenner said just last week that I was referring to.
He released this statement to Eric Holder saying, "I spoke with Attorney
General Holder today and requested that he withdraw his Section 2 voting
rights lawsuit until there can be a legislative fix of the VRA. The
lawsuit would make it much more difficult to pass a bipartisan fix to
restore the heart of the VRA."

Isn`t that the wrong order of things, to say we should stop enforcing the
part of the law that the Supreme Court actually didn`t overturn?

trying to get to a bipartisan solution. He views the litigation as making
his job more difficult. So I don`t think it`s out of the ordinary that he
would write a letter like that.

But I think the larger point is encapsulated with what General Powell said
yesterday, and he`s exactly right about this. There is in fact no evidence
of widespread voter fraud that`s taken place over the recent history of the
country in a way that is hurting Republicans. And there is a mythology
that has grown up around this issue inside the Republican Party, but it has
no basis in fact.

And so, General Powell makes another good point. When we`ve had a system
that for many years has relied on people not having to have an ID, why is
it necessary to do this now? When you look at the lines in the last
presidential election in minority neighborhoods and minority communities
and places where the president won overwhelmingly, the way the Republicans
have to compete is to reach out into these communities, not with tactics
designed to frustrate people and make it more difficult to vote, but I
think a lot of these efforts that shut down the early voting, that make it
more difficult to register on election day or the wrong path for

MELBER: Yes. Well, you mentioned General Powell. Let`s play a little
more sound. Karen, I want to get your reaction to what he said when asked
about -- well, what about all the Republicans who believe this is a
problem? Let`s take a listen.


POWELL: I think some of them honestly feel that it is appropriate to ask
for more identification. But when they start to say, let`s restrict the
number of voting hours or make it harder for students to vote, then I have
to get a little bit suspicious of it.


MELBER: Karen, he`s suspicious of it in North Carolina. What do you make
of that?

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC HOST: He`s right to be suspicious. Look, I think part
of the problem, Ari, you and I have talked about this -- General Powell is
absolutely right on all of this. However, the conversation needs to be
framed not around identification, do you need an ID to buy Sudafed, do you
need an ID to go and vote? It should be about our fundamental
constitutional right to vote and how do we protect that right?

And the irony of this is that the sort of games that the Republicans have
played actually I think help increase turnout for President Obama in the
last election because people were so enraged at the idea that they were
putting up all of these hurdles to try to stop people. You know, you saw
people standing in line saying, no way you`re going to take away my vote.

And I think now what you`re seeing in places like Texas and North Carolina
is people sort of re-energized and galvanized to go ahead and have this
fight. If they want to take on this fight, we`re going to have this fight.

MELBER: And, Steve, I mean, you worked for John McCain. You`re in touch
with a lot of Republicans. Colin Powell doesn`t have necessarily the
strongest partisan credentials at this moment of time, although his
honesty`s obviously appreciated by a lot of people and he said that, some
of these remarks in North Carolina, lining up against what the Republicans
are doing there very directly.

Do you see any other people who want to take this mantle of leadership in
the Republican Party?

SCHMIDT: Well, look, I thought that Chairman Sensenbrenner talking about
that this is something we have to get done is an encouraging thing., But
one of the points I`d make is we are in a stage in the Republican Party
where so much energy is spent on pointing a finger at people, who`s not the
real conservative or I`m more conservative than you and you ought to be
kicked out of the party.

I think it is inarguable that we were a stronger political party, we were
more of a national party when Colin Powell was comfortable endorsing
Republican candidates and when Colin Powell was speaking at Republican

And the fact that Colin Powell doesn`t feel all that comfortable in the
Republican Party today when he did a generation ago is something that ought
to make us pause, look in the mirror, and take stock. What is it that
we`re doing that is turning off so many voters that used to be inclined to
be with us? And I think that that`s an issue the Republicans are going
have to focus on mightily as we get ready for 2016.

MELBER: Yes, that makes sense, especially as we look at this anniversary

Steve Schmidt and Karen Finney, thank you both for joining us tonight.

And coming up, the state of New York versus Donald Trump. Why the attorney
general is calling Trump University a bait and switch scam that is illegal.

And next, why Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg says she`s not
leaving anytime soon.


MELBER: And now in the spotlight tonight a new Supreme Court activism.
Conservatives have complained about judicial activism for a very long time.
But now, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, probably the most liberal member of
the court, says she`s digging in to fight what she calls, quote, "one of
the most activist courts in history."

In an interview with "The New York Times`" Adam Liptak, the 80-year-old
justice points to the court`s decisions on the Voting Rights Act as a
stunning decision in terms of activism. Now, of course, it all depends on
how you define it. But according to a recent study of the court, over 60
years, the Roberts court has reached conservative outcomes more often than
any court since 1953, a whopping 71 percent of the time.

Well, joining us now is Adam Liptak, a former First Amendment attorney for
"The Times" and now the paper`s Supreme Court correspondent. And Dahlia
Lithwick, a former clerk for the chief justice of the 9th circuit and a
legal writer for "Slate".

Thank you both for being here.

And Adam, I`ll start with you since you just spent so much time with Ruth
Bader Ginsberg. Is she really digging in and embracing her role as
possibly the biggest liberal on the court?

role since 2010 of being the senior justice on the liberal wing of the
court, which in closely divided cases is typically but not always in a 5-4
minority. And she has been issuing some blistering dissents from the bench
and in writing, and now she made some fairly sharp comments to me in an

MELBER: Indeed she did. You mentioned those dissents. She almost seems
to look at dissents as a form of persuasion by time travel, if you will,
and she`s famously cited a former chief justice who said a dissent is an
appeal to the intelligence of a future day, when a later decision may
possibly correct it.

Adam, is that part of the idea here? She`s been reading more dissents from
the bench, as you point out in the article that`s a bigger deal, and she`s
trying to sort of put a marker down even in the minority?

LIPTAK: Well, she said -- she said in so many words in the interview that
she hopes someday her dissents will become the law. And the dissents also,
Ari, as you know, have a different function also. They can sometimes be an
appeal to Congress. So in the Lily Ledbetter case she was on the losing
side. She dissented in that case. In an unemployment discrimination case.

And she said Congress, you should fix this. And that was a different time,
different Congress just a few years ago. And Congress did fix it. And
she`s very proud of that work her dissent did, too.

MELBER: Yes, and that is -- that goes to that interplay between the court
and Congress. We think of this sometimes as a do-nothing Congress, but
they do sometimes respond to messages from the court, positive or

Dahlia, let`s dig into some of the dissent areas where she`s been so vocal
on issues that a lot of people care about. Justice Ginsburg has spoken up
on the issue of abortion, on affirmative action, where she was probably the
lone dissent for more diversity, workplace discrimination, which Adam just
mentioned, and then of course in voting rights.

What do you see when you look at that confluence of issues?

DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE.COM: I think that one very interesting thing that
really distinguishes a Ginsburg dissent, particularly in the last few
years, is -- as Adam says there`s a sort of fieriness. We`re not used to
that. She`s a pretty dispassionate person. But there`s also this theme
that runs through many of the cases you`ve described, this sense that oh,
my god, they don`t get it, they don`t understand boots on the ground, what
life is like in the world.

And so in a lot of -- for instance, the employment discrimination cases,
Adam mentioned the Ledbetter case, the Title 7 cases from this term, the
Wal-Mart case, there`s an awful lot of, how can these people who are either
coming from academia or off the bench understand what it`s like to be a
woman in a job?

And that theme also runs through I think the voting rights dissent, but
just this ongoing feeling of this court just doesn`t understand what the
real world is like.

MELBER: Well, and, Dahlia, say more about that because if we only had a
Republican appointees in the recent area it would be an all-male court. We
have -- right now the women on the court are from President Obama and
President Clinton. Did she feel that that is obviously also ideologically
blinkered to some degree, whether there`s a difference in what women face
in the workforce?

LITHWICK: Well, absolutely. She said it in so many words after a case
that involved a strip search of a young girl, where she was the only woman
on the bench, she gave an interview where she just said, my colleagues do
not understand what it is to be a girl. But I think it transcends gender
and I think it goes to professional experience, too, Ari.

I think it`s really important to understand, she was an ACLU litigator.
She has said, I could never ever get confirmed today with that background.

MELBER: Right. Right.

LITHWICK: So I think it`s really important to understand that she really
saw cases from a very different perspective that kind of transcends this
left-right thing --

MELBER: Well, you know --

LITHWICK: -- and it`s generational.

MELBER: And you know litigating on behalf of constitutional rights for
human beings is very controversial obviously.


Adam, I want to give you the last word on a point that you`ve written
about, which is the Chamber of Commerce and big business are doing very
well. In fact, when you look at cases that actually go up to the court,
which is a huge deal, as everyone knows, we`ve seen something around 32
percent of the Chamber`s priorities go through. That leaves every other
group of every kind in the country. What does that tell us about where the
Roberts court is headed?

LIPTAK: Well, this court, and this is really beyond dispute, is the most
pro-business court since the Second World War. And the change really comes
with President George W. Bush`s two appointees, Chief Justice Roberts and
Justice Alito, who are number one and number two in their propensity to
vote for business of all of the justices who`ve served in that time period.
So this is a court which is an open door for business interests.

MELBER: Right. And that`s something that the data bears out. Whether
people think that`s good or bad, they can debate at home.

LIPTAK: That`s right.

MELBER: Dahlia Lithwick of Slate and Adam Liptak of the "New York Times,"
thank you both for spending some time with us tonight.

LIPTAK: Glad to be here.

MELBER: Coming up, one of the people who says Donald Trump`s Trump
University ripped him off will join us to talk about New York state`s new
lawsuit against Mr. Trump.

And why do people keep thinking golf solves everything? They really do.
Some people say that. We will be talking about the politicians who say
playing golf is the secret to governing and why they`re wrong. That`s up


MELBER: Now the demolition of a parking garage is rarely news. Unless, of
course, the parking garage is in Washington, D.C. and was the meeting spot
for uncovering one of the biggest scandals in American history.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You let Haldeman slip away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve done worse than let Haldeman slip away and get
people feeling sorry for him. I didn`t think that was possible.


MELBER: Yes. The garage where Deep Throat met Bob Woodward will be torn
down within the next four years. At least according to a brand new plan.
FBI agent Mark Felt met Woodward six times between October `72 and November
`73. And for the trivia junkies it was parking stall D-32.

Now tonight I also want to talk to you about why the president doesn`t need
any more of these. That`s up next.


MELBER: Tonight I want to talk with you about the president and golf.
This isn`t one of those horrible political sports metaphors. I`m talking
about actual literal golf, the sport where people play for hours if they
have free time and spend thousands of dollars on equipment and golf ranges
and cute clubhouse drinks like the Arnold Palmer.

Because out of all the criticisms of President Obama the golf attack has to
be one of the most absurd and also the most revealing about his critics.
The latest round came from Michael Bloomberg. He sat down with the "New
Yorker" for an exit interview about his mayoral term. And right there on
the first page Bloomberg complains that while the president`s done some
good things in bringing the parties together Obama has failed to invite
Republicans to play golf with him.

Now Washington insiders have their own variation on this complaint, that
everything would be better if the president just spent more time sporting,
drinking, meeting or just chilling out with the Republicans who oppose his


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The question is does the president
have the courage to stand up to his own party and work with us to truly
solve this problem?

But the president is out to his campaign events nonstop when he could be
sitting down with Senate leaders to actually act.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: And I call on our president to help
lead us towards a bipartisan solution rather than encourage the common
political divisions of the past.

PEGGY NOONAN, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I haven`t heard about any negotiations
or talks or serious signaling that is going on, which is something that
always confuses me a little bit about this administration.


MELBER: It always confuses Peggy Noonan that this administration never
reaches out to Republicans. This kind of thinking is wrong on two levels.
First, the presidents is constantly reaching out for more bro time with
Republicans. In March having to work around Republican leaders who were
stonewalling him the president invited a dozen GOP senators out to dinner.
The next week the president met with the House Republican leadership.

In April the president had his second dinner with a dozen more Republican
senators. And back in November, just before bipartisan budget talks,
President Obama secretly invited five Republicans to the White House for a
movie screening with the stars of "Lincoln."

And none accepted. On the invite list were Speaker Boehner and Senators
McConnell, Alexander Coburn and Snowe.

Now maybe movies just don`t offer the bipartisan bonding of golf. Well, it
turns out the president has been doing that, too. Here`s Obama and Boehner
back in the summer of 2011. Doesn`t that look nice? And here he is with
Republican senators, Corker and Chambliss, on the links just three months

Here`s the president and Senator Corker talking about something with
putters in the hand on the green. And here`s Senator Corker talking about
playing golf with President Obama on TV.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did you learn about the president from his
golf game and what did you learn about what he intends to do?


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Well, you know, it was mostly golf. He
was easy to be around and candidly it was a lot of fun. And obviously
Saxby`s hole-in-1 on 11 was just perfect. It was a great day.


MELBER: Boom. Candidly it was a lot of fun. Well, if you`re going to
lecture the president on this stuff, shouldn`t you check whether there
really is a boycott of GOP golf? And more importantly, this quality of
time complaint does reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of politics today
and what`s happened to the Republican Party.

There are hazards to progress in Washington, big ones. Gerrymandered
congressional districts are reducing competition and they enable
politicians to pick their voters instead of voters picking politicians.
And that has led to a far more polarized voting record in the House.
Democrats are a little more liberal than they were in the `60s while
Republicans are far more conservative than they used to be.

You can see right there, the Republicans breaking up in the right-hand
corner away from the pack. And that`s data from political scientist Keith

And then there`s the money. 2012 was the most expensive election in
American history. The average winning Senate candidate spent nearly 10
million bucks. And that money comes with a price. Many big donors oppose
government regulations and the president`s agenda. And those are just
structural barriers to legislative breakthroughs. We`re not even going to
revisit the pledges of Mitch McConnell or Ted Cruz to oppose anything Obama
proposes because, you know, Obama proposed it.

But you don`t beat these kind of barriers with tee time. You can beat them
with public pressure. That`s what ultimately made this do-nothing House
pass the Violence Against Women Act six months ago. And the president
promptly signed it.

You can beat these barriers with aggressive parliamentary tactics, not
taking shots together down the fairway. Tactics, real tactics like
threatening to change the Senate rules unless Republicans stop obstructing
votes on executive nominees. Democrats, as you may remember, they pulled
that one off just last month.

Or you can whip your caucus and pass big things on those party line votes.
That`s how we got Obamacare, which passed without a single Republican
senator. That`s how we got the president`s $800 billion stimulus, which
passed without a single Republican House member.

You have to bring your A game to get those kind of things done in this
environment. It actually takes a lot more work than what Bloomberg and the
conservative crowd have implied. It takes more than sharing tee time. And
maybe it`s time someone told Mayor Bloomberg his game is pretty subpar.


MELBER: It`s time to get serious for a moment. Today there has been a lot
of talk about inappropriate dancing from the MTV Video Music Awards. And
we`re not going to show you any of that. We are not in the business of
evaluating anyone`s dancing here at THE LAST WORD.

We will, however, show you some dancing that you do need to see. This is
former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell with the singer Pharrell and
the actor-slash-singer Jamie Foxx, getting down on Saturday night. They`re
dancing to the hook-up anthem "Get Lucky." He`s over on the left of your

That really happened. We like it. We salute it. You might have also
spotted Ellen DeGeneres back there as well.

Stay with us because up next it`s New York versus Donald Trump.



phony curriculum with phony instructors and a life-size poster of Trump so
they can pretend they met him.


MELBER: Donald Trump may be famous for lying about the president`s birth
certificate and there`s actually nothing illegal about that. But lying in
business is another story. And today New York state`s attorney general
filed a $40 million lawsuit against Trump, his business holdings, and a
for-profit real estate program that was once known as Trump University.

Trump faces six charges, including fraud, false advertising, and operating
a university without the university charter that`s actually required under
New York law. The complaint takes Trump to task for claiming that he only
founded the program for philanthropic purposes and personally selected each


DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: Honestly, if you don`t learn from them,
if you don`t learn from me, if you don`t learn from the people that we`re
going to be putting forward, and these are all people that are hand-picked
by me, then you`re just not going to make it in terms of the world of


MELBER: Well, according to the attorney general, those instructors
actually had no direct link to Trump. Some had recently filed for
bankruptcy and had little to no expertise. And the program brought in
5,000 customers through false and misleading advertising. Donald Trump
attacked the attorney general today.


TRUMP: During the investigation he was asking people in my firm, including
one of my lawyers, for campaign contributions. Who ever heard of this?
He`s asking for campaign contributions while he`s looking into Trump. I
mean, what kind of an attorney general is this?


MELBER: He sounds so excited. The attorney general responded today on


SCHNEIDERMAN: All prosecutors are used to people who can`t respond to the
allegations in a complaint making crazy allegations.


MELBER: And that brings us back to Mr. Trump`s long-time obsession with
Barack Obama. Faced with this local prosecution, Trump saw an Obama
scandal lurking behind his legal troubles.


TRUMP: He meets with the president on Thursday night. He sues me on
Saturday. It was a terribly drawn suit, incompetently drawn suit, and they
obviously did it very quickly. But probably Obama, maybe this is a mini
IRS. Maybe we have to get the Tea Party after these people because this
could very well be a mini IRS.


MELBER: He`s always yelling. It could be a mini IRS, Mr. Trump, or it
could be that you ran a university in violation of a state law that
produced a lot of customers who now say you lied to them.

Bob Guillo is one of those former customers. He says he did once believe
Donald Trump that Bob ultimately handed over $35,000 to the organization,
and he joins us now.

Thanks for being here and telling your story.


MELBER: So you felt at one point in time that this was an investment or a
purchase that you wanted to make. The attorney general says that a lot of
people made this purchase under false pretenses, which is a violation of
the law here in New York. Do you feel that is your situation?

GUILLO: I certainly do.

MELBER: And what exactly happened that drew you into this?

GUILLO: OK. My son got a flyer, went to a mini seminar, paid $1,495 for a
three-day seminar with a James Harris. James Harris was one of the best
motivational speakers I`ve ever listened to in my life. And he told us to
all go out and increase our credit rating for the purpose of buying real
estate but it was only to increase our credit ratings -- credit limits,
rather, so that we could pay $35,000 for the Trump Gold Elite Program.

MELBER: Mm-hmm. And when you listen to the defenses that Mr. Trump has
offered today and that we just played, what is your response to them as
someone who that feels that he`s taken money from you that was not
rightfully his?

GUILLO: OK. At the end of each workshop they handed out a questionnaire
and the presenter would ask you to complete the questionnaire in order to
get this certificate at the end of each workshop. And they also mentioned
that I`d like you to be kind to me because Mr. Trump would like to have me
come back hopefully if you give us a very satisfactory rating.

So everybody filled out a questionnaire and not putting down the exact
feelings that they have. And now Mr. Trump started up a Web site called

MELBER: And let me ask you about that. If you hold that up there as I see
you did a copy of it.


MELBER: Trump University, it says on there.

GUILLO: Right.

MELBER: Were you under the impression during this period or when you were
paying that this was an actual university?

GUILLO: Absolutely. I worked in the service area for corporations and I
filed many documents with the secretary of state of New York, and I knew
that the word university was prohibited unless you had the approval of the
Board of Regents and the Department of Education, which I assumed that
Donald Trump got.

MELBER: Right.

GUILLO: Because they filed the certificate.

MELBER: And that`s one of the key legal claims that the attorney general
is pressing now.

GUILLO: Right.

MELBER: I want to also play for you some other defenses that Donald Trump
has offered. We`re definitely giving his side of the story as well.


MELBER: Take a listen to this.


TRUMP: We`re dealing with an attorney general who everyone in New York
knows is a total lightweight. He`s very unpopular. He lets Jon Corzine
take 1.4 or something, disappear -- $1.4 billion and doesn`t do a thing.
He lets Wall Street and everybody else rape everybody, doesn`t do a thing.
He goes after Donald Trump and a school that has a 98 percent approval


MELBER: Now what is your sense from being involved in this of the attorney
general at this point?

GUILLO: OK. I think that he did a lot for Bob Guillo and all the other
people that got trumped by Trump. OK?

MELBER: And I`ve got to ask you this as well. And I don`t mean this with
any offense. But some people look at a situation like this, and putting
aside the legal issue of whether it was accredited, they say you know what?
Buyer beware. People shouldn`t have trusted Trump in the first place, you
have to make your own decisions with your money.

To people who say that, what is your response?

GUILLO: My response is that Donald Trump`s reputation as a successful real
estate investor and a billionaire made him in our eyes to be a really great
guy that decided to be very benevolent to little guys like me and show us
the way to make big bucks like he did. And it was all a scam. From the
first day that I went to the first workshop, when they tried to get me to
pay more money and every other workshop was a scam to get you to lay out
more dollars --

MELBER: Right.

GUILLO: -- in addition to the money that you paid initially.

MELBER: Right. And that is the attorney general`s claim that he wants to
press in court, that they were lying to consumers and thus any consent or
money they got as a product of that fraud should be disgorged.

Thank you for telling your story to us.

GUILLO: You`re welcome, Ari.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Bob Guillo, thanks for joining us.

I am Ari Melber. I`m in for Lawrence O`Donnell. He will be back tomorrow.
You can find me on "THE CYCLE", Monday through Friday, at 3:00 p.m.
Eastern, and on Twitter @Arimelber. Chris Hayes is up next.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.

Tonight on ALL IN, the White House says there is very little doubt that
chemical weapons were used in Syria. Now the question on everyone`s mind
is whether the U.S. is on the eve of another war.

Also tonight, what happens when a right-wing fringe congressman says
something patently false and the world takes him seriously.


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