THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
February 18, 2014
Guests: Joseph Gerth, Steve LaTourette, Marc Morial
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: So, when do you think voting starts?
The 2014 congressional elections? Well, it began today in the land of Ted
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, people are just kind of sick and tired
of what goes on in Washington, D.C.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, now to the 2014 midterms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re tired of the dysfunction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the top of the list, it`s states like Kentucky.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The hot Senate race that`s happening in the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The grassroots frustration with Mitch McConnell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces a primary
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitch McConnell`s primary challenger, Matt
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where`s Mitch? Maybe we can call him back.
Where`s Mitch? Where`s Mitch?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Money talks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They spent over $1 million in negative ads
attacking Mitch McConnell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Super PACs knocking off senators, governors and
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A barrage of ads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McConnell now has to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Cornyn and McConnell are both nervous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senators Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Matt Bevin running against Mitch McConnell in
Kentucky. Steve Stockman running against John Cornyn in Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cornyn`s primary opponent, Congressman Steve
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both men are facing Tea Party challenges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then there`s senator Ted Cruz.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here`s what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senators Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- ended a Ted Cruz-led filibuster.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To avoid defaulting on the national debt.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Playing with the debt ceiling is
like playing with fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McConnell and Cornyn rallied support for the bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s the kind of thing that Kentuckians are sick
and tired of.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats are count on the Tea Party to help them
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is in a dead
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democrat Alison Grimes will pose a formidable
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could we see Mitch McConnell ousted by Alison
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you very well could see that.
O`DONNELL: In the epic battle between Ted Cruz and the Senate
Republican leadership, the Republican base is about to finally have its
say. Early voting in the Texas Senate Republican primary actually started
today. Mitch McConnell`s number two in the Senate, John Cornyn, who ted
Cruz refused to endorse is one of eight Republicans on the ballot, which
includes Congressman Steve Stockman and this guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DWAYNE STOVALL (R-TX), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: As a U.S. senator from
Texas, you vote for Texas. You don`t stab her in the back by voting for
cloture for Obamacare. You don`t enslave its children with
unconstitutional laws and overwhelming debt. And you certainly don`t do
all this to please some guy who looks and fights like a turtle. I`m a
Texan. We Texans don`t need a belt white turtle telling us how to fight.
VOICE: I like turtle soup.
I`m Dwayne Stovall and I approve this message.
Paid for by Texans for Stovall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Republican leader Mitch McConnell is facing his own
primary fight, of course, against Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin in
Kentucky, where he -- McConnell is now being forced to defend a procedural
to raise the debt ceiling, a maneuver that was forced by Ted Cruz, as well
as, of course, depending against Cruz`s characterization of how Senate
Republicans view their constituents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: In the 13 months I`ve been in the Senate,
it has become apparent to me the single thing that Republican politicians
hate and fear the most, and that is when they`re forced to tell the truth.
It makes their heads explode. And actually, debt ceiling example is a
perfect example, where the Republican members of the Senate, they all
wanted the perfect show vote.
Make no mistake about it. This was their desired outcome. An awful
lot of the Republicans wanted exactly what Barack Obama wanted, exactly
what Nancy Pelosi wanted, exactly what Harry Reid wanted, which was to
raise the debt ceiling but they wanted to be able to tell what they view as
their foolish, gullible constituents back home, they didn`t do it.
REPORTER: Can you explain your votes on the debt ceiling increase
that was clean? There are some -- you know, Ted Cruz in particular is
saying that the establishment is thinking that voters back home are
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Yes, look, my
preference is for a debt ceiling to carry additional legislation that does
something about the debt. But as you know, Joe, the House of
Representatives couldn`t pass anything other than a clean debt ceiling.
They couldn`t pass anything else. The speaker tried a whole lot of
different versions, add-ones to the debt ceiling, couldn`t get to 218 no
matter what combination.
So, were confronted with a clean debt ceiling in the Senate or
default. You know, I believe I have to act in the best interest of the
country. And every time we`ve been confronted with a potential crisis, the
guy you`re looking at is the one who stepped up and solved the problem,
whether it was the fiscal cliff deal at the end of 2012, when everybody`s
taxes were going up, whenever it was last October in the 16th day of the
government shutdown, or yesterday, or Thursday, when it was clear that we
needed to produce enough procedural votes to get to a debt ceiling vote in
order to avoid a default.
My job is to protect the country when I can. And to step up and lead
on those occasions when it`s required. That`s what I did.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, former Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette.
He`s president of the Main Street Partnership. And Joseph Gerth, political
writer for the "Courier-Journal" in Kentucky.
Joseph Girth, you were present when Mitch McConnell was being pressed
to answer that. It kind of -- I don`t know -- it doesn`t seem like a
complicated answer to me, but I know how the Senate worked. How did that
answer work in Kentucky that we just heard?
JOSEPH GERTH, COURIER-JOURNAL: You know, Kentucky right now -- the
Republican Party at least in Kentucky is pretty split right now. Those who
like Mitch McConnell probably thought that was a pretty good answer.
Those who don`t like him, the Tea Party sorts, probably weren`t too
happy with that answer. They think that he should have stood up and fought
raising the debt ceiling without getting the changes in that -- the cuts in
that they wanted. He didn`t do it, and they`re not going to be happy.
O`DONNELL: When they say that he should have fought on the debt
ceiling, Joseph, do they -- two things -- do they believe it when he says
the choice was the clean debt ceiling or default? And then secondly, do
they think default is really a bad thing?
GERTH: The vast majority of folks over -- the far right conservatives
tend to think that default is not necessarily a bad thing. That they would
rather see us default than raise that debt ceiling and continue paying
bills they say we don`t have the money to spend.
Now, Matt Bevin, McConnell`s opponent has said recently he doesn`t
think default is a good idea, but at the same time, he came up pretty hard
against Senator McConnell after that vote.
O`DONNELL: Steve LaTourette, you`re working on the Republican side
now trying to stop those candidacies like Matt Bevin against candidates
like Mitch McConnell. Did you ever think where you would come to the point
where you`re trying to explain to factions of your party that default is
not a good thing?
STEVE LATOURETTE, MAIN STREET PARTNERSHIP: No. I mean, that is a
shock to me. But I`ll tell you, the one thing that makes my head explode
is Senator Cruz. What he did to Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn was
But your other guest was right that, in fact, you do have some default
deniers and some folks who think it wouldn`t be so bad, you know? Let`s
pay a few bills and so forth and so on. But if we default, it`s not just a
-- it`s not a big deal.
But, you know, thank goodness for Mitch McConnell and John Boehner who
don`t take that view in the face of some pretty stiff criticism.
O`DONNELL: Steve --
GERTH: You know, my --
O`DONNELL: Go ahead.
GERTH: My newspaper, "The Courier-Journal" has a very liberal
editorial page. But his vote on the debt ceiling elicited a very, very
kind editorial in his favor.
O`DONNELL: Well, let`s go back to what Ted Cruz said. We just heard
him say this, "The single thing that Republican politicians hate and fear
the most, that is when they`re forced to tell the truth."
I got to say, if I just submitted to that to you, Steve, as a blind
quote, I didn`t tell you where that came from in your wildest dreams, would
you pin that on a Republican United States senator?
LATOURETTE: Well, sadly, you can`t do that anymore, because I would
know exactly where it came from.
LATOURETTE: But the fact of the matter is, I mean, it`s those kinds
of statements that are just irresponsible, and if you go back to the
government shutdown. I mean, this guy is a bomb thrower, he`s a flame
thrower, but he`s got no exit strategy, he`s got no plan b. He doesn`t
have the responsibility of governing, which Mitch McConnell does.
And I think that -- he can go on Mark Levin show and say whatever the
heck he wants.
O`DONNELL: Well, I mean, a guy who says the single thing that
Republican politicians hate and fear the most is telling the truth --
Steve, why is he a Republican?
LATOURETTE: I don`t think he is a Republican, to tell you the truth.
I wish he would stop being a Republican and leave the party. That would be
a nice thing.
He`s really a libertarian. I mean, he comes out of the Ron Paul wing
of the libertarian wing of the party, and, you know, they use the
Republican Party as a vehicle to get elected, but once in it, they want to
cannibalize it and criticize it.
If he spent half as much energy trying to defeat Democrats and gain
control of the Senate as he does bashing other Republicans, we`d have 60
votes in the Senate.
O`DONNELL: Joe Gerth, why is Mitch McConnell struggling in his re-
election campaign in Kentucky? Not necessarily so much against the Tea
Party challenge, but against the Democratic challenger Alison Grimes, who`s
running very close to him, basically a statistical tie in the polls. That
to me is shocking for an incumbent senator and certainly shocking for an
incumbent senator who is the leader of his party in the Senate.
GERTH: It maybe shouldn`t be all that shocking. I mean, you look
back to Tom Daschle. It seems to me one of the hardest jobs in government
is being the minority leader, because you have to be saying no at every
turn. Senator McConnell`s problem in Kentucky, if you look back at the
poll that my newspaper along with three other news organizations did
recently that found that his favorable ratings were abysmal, 27 percent had
favorable views of him, 50 percent of Kentucky voters had unfavorable views
That`s a tough nut to crack in an election year. He`s got to figure
out a way to increase his numbers. At the same time, possibly take down
Matt Bevin, possibly take down Alison Grime grimes. His number against
Bevin looks strong at this point. He holds a 55-29 lead. But two years
ago, Dick Lugar had a 55-30 lead over Richard Mourdock.
So, it`s not a done deal, although McConnell is in a much stronger
position here that Lugar was, just because McConnell understands the threat
and he sees it and he`s prepared to take it on.
O`DONNELL: Well, Joseph, where did he stray from the majority of
voters in Kentucky?
GERTH: I think more than anything, it`s just the level of fatigue
that you get with a politician after they`ve represented you for 30 years.
Senator McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984. He had served a
term and a half as a Jefferson County judge executive, the top executive
position in the largest county in Kentucky for a term and a half before
that. That`s a long time. And you tend to make some enemies over time.
And then on top of that, you`ve got this Tea Party wave taking effect
that just doesn`t agree with some of the things he`s done over the years.
McConnell has been a deal cutter. He`s gone out and worked with the
Democrats on occasion. He`s fought with them quite a bit on occasion also.
But it`s those times he`s been able to cut deals with them that has really
tick off this wing of the Republican Party.
O`DONNELL: Well, you know, I think of the careers of Ted Kennedy and
Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and their voters never tired of them. They
stayed in the Senate until their last breath.
"Louisville Carrier-Journal" political reporter Joseph Gerth, thank
you very much for joining us tonight.
And, Steve LaTourette, thank you for joining us tonight.
LATOURETTE: Good to be with you.
GERTH: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up -- coming up, Chris Christie is raising money
tonight for Republican candidates. And former members of team Christie are
refusing to comply with subpoenas tonight.
And, the president focused on criminal justice today in a meeting that
included Mark Morial. He will join me, along with Joy Reid.
And parts of Kiev are in flames tonight. Shocking video from there
after riot police stormed a square filled with protesters.
O`DONNELL: Today was deadline day for two of the most important
subpoenas in the investigation in New Jersey. Team Christie is not exactly
complying with the request for information in this investigation, the way
Chris Christie said the way they would during his press conference. That`s
O`DONNELL: With Christie on the New York side of the George
Washington Bridge tonight raising Republican Senate candidates. A showdown
broke out today over subpoenas in the George Washington Bridge
The two people Chris Christie has fired once again refused to comply
with subpoenas for documents. Bridget Kelly, the author of the most famous
one liner in the George Washington Bridge story, "Time for traffic problems
in Fort Lee", has refused through her attorney to hand over any more of her
e-mails or documents in this case. So, has Bill Stepien, Christie`s former
The refusal to comply with the subpoenas sets up a legal confrontation
that will likely be resolved in court. Chris Christie has hired a criminal
lawyer at taxpayer expense to finally conduct an investigation on behalf of
the governor`s office -- at least that`s what they say he`s doing -- on
what happened on the George Washington Bridge, an investigation that
Christie refused to do himself until long after the story had gotten
completely out of control.
Christie fired Bridget Anne Kelly without saying a word to her,
according to the story of her firing that he told at his press conference
on January 9th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I have not had any conversation
with Bridget Kelly since the e-mail came out. So, she was not given the
opportunity to explain to me why she lied, because it was so obvious that
she had. And I`m quite frankly not interested in the explanation at the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Well, everyone else is interested in that explanation.
And Chris Christie should be interested in that explanation now.
Chris Christie showed absolutely no curiosity about what anyone
involved in the scandal knew until after that press conference. And now,
Chris Christie has hired his criminal lawyer asking -- who has his criminal
lawyer, asking New Jersey officials, including the mayors of Hoboken and
Fort Lee to cooperate with what is now the governor`s office investigation.
Team Christie`s investigation seems so far to be aimed at people such as
the mayors who have said things that are problems for the Christie
Today, Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee, rejected team Christie`s
request for an interview. The letter by Mayor Sokolich`s lawyer says,
"While the mayor has gone out of his way to be fair to all parties in this
matter, he wants to make sure that he respects the legal proceedings that
are ongoing. In light of the parallel investigations being conducted at
the same time regarding the same subject matter, I do not believe it would
be appropriate for the mayor to be interviewed by you or to produce any
Joining me now is attorney Ari Melber, co-host of MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE."
OK, counselor, showdown on the subpoenas, they`re refusing to deliver.
What does the legislative investigative committee do next to try to enforce
ARI MELBER, THE CYCLE: Yes, well, to enforce the subpoenas, what they
will ultimately say is that even if these individuals can invoke a Fifth
Amendment right not to verbally testify, that won`t extend to handing over
a lot of these documents. And that`s something that can be litigated out
and can be appealed to a court.
As you point out, Lawrence, and it can`t be stressed enough, that was
a two-hour press conference. About two hours. And you just played the
most important sound from it on this issue. And it can`t be played enough,
which was the governor saying then he didn`t care, he wasn`t interested.
So, he fired these folks without looking into it, right?
And what`s happening now as you`re reporting is he`s paying a lawyer
650 bucks an hour for a supposedly internal investigation to go have those
conversations that he refused to have at the time when he had the most
leverage over those people, when they were his employees.
O`DONNELL: The challenge to the subpoenas. What do you think is the
legal basis for them refusing to hand over the documents being requested
now? And also, what is the legal basis that the people believes they have
to obtain this to override in effect their Fifth Amendment objection.
MELBER: So, basically, the case on point was about Webster Hubble.
And it was an example where an investigative inquiry went too far in
compelling someone to basically go through and individually pick out the
kind of evidence and documents that was incriminating. That is to say,
instead of a blanket request like, hey, give us your calendar entries or
give us a bunch of documents, it was find these specific incriminating
And that goes into why we have a Fifth Amendment, which is you don`t -
- you don`t have to incriminate yourself. You can`t be forced to do that.
It seems unfair.
So, that`s the kind of claim you would make, that the nature of the
request is such that you are basically, in lawyer speak, they call it
testimonial in nature. That is as if you`re testifying against yourself,
and the committee`s argument here will be particularly with requests that
are fairly straightforward and broad. No, we`re not asking you to do
anything yourself. We`re just asking you to hand over some basic
materials. And they`ve said they feel really strong on the law.
O`DONNELL: And it seems the committee has more than one way to get at
least some of this material. For example, if they are subpoenaing in the
records, the e-mail records of the governor`s office, some of Bridget Anne
Kelly`s e-mails or all of her government e-mails would theoretically show
up in that direction collection, but her personal e-mails on the personal
account, which they were using in this situation, you would have to -- the
subpoena would have to get those through her, it seems.
MELBER: That`s exactly right, Lawrence. And when you look at these
kinds of investigations, whether they`re government or corporate, you try
to do an end to end matchup. You try to say, OK, we have every outgoing e-
mail, we have every incoming e-mail. We want to do that for authenticity
and for thoroughness.
And so, in a lot of cases, particularly with regard to what we know to
be suspicious activity, government e-mails and plans and meetings about a
supposed traffic study that was actually more of a cover up, the actual
closures themselves, the emails from the senior officers saying, we`re
going to stop these lane closures, a lot of that is in government emails
they can get. The private stuff in the text, harder to get, more important
for them to win on these subpoenas.
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, esquire -- thank you very much for joining me
MELBER: Thank you, sir.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama had a meeting at the White
House today. We`re going to have Marc Morial join us. He is in that
And in the "Rewrite" tonight, the very, very worst strategic idea in
politics this year, guess which side came up with it? Yes, the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: It has been said that if America has a cold,
blacks have pneumonia. And in many areas, the criminal justice area,
particularly with this last verdict in Florida and in the economic area, we
have deep concerns that we expressed to the president. He listened very
attentively and committed to have (INAUDIBLE) some of the criminal justice
concerns and to continue to push on income inequality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: For 90 minutes today, President Obama met with Reverend Al
Sharpton and others as part of a new initiative he described this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to pull
together private philanthropists, foundations, working with governors and
mayors and churches and nonprofits and we`re just going to focus on young
men of color and find ways in which we can create more pathways to success
We`re not going to create some big new government program. But we`re
going to work with communities, businesses, so that, you know, whether it`s
helping to set up early childhood education so that young people can read
early, or it is creating mentorship programs and apprenticeship programs so
that a young person can get exposed to what a career is like in, you know,
a factory as a machinist where you`re getting paid $30, $35 an hour, but
you may not even know that that option is available.
Across the board from the time they`re young all the way through their
first job, we want to help more young African-American men, Latino men
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Marc Morial, president of the National
Urban League who met with President Obama this afternoon and MSNBC`s Joy
Marc, you were in the Roosevelt Room with the president today. Was
Jordan Davis` -- the killing of Jordan Davis discussed?
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: It was underlying the
discussion about criminal justice reform, the concerns about the Zimmerman
case. The Jordan Davis case, and what it means for the problems in the
criminal justice system. We applauded the work of the attorney general to
really take the bull by the horns and push his new smart on crime
initiative. And he related to us that it was that kind of work and that
kind of commitment which brought him to the Obama administration. Because
the president certainly expressed a passion for making those sort of
changes. So it was a backdrop. It`s certainly under lied a lot of the
discussions we had today.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, I think there`s no question that Barack Obama,
the man, and Eric Holder, the man, have an interest in this area and have
their entire adult lives, but in the first term of the Obama
administration, this kind of discussion did not occur.
JOY REID, MANAGING EDITOR, THE GRIO/MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. And I
think that, you know, for the White House in the first term, there were a
lot of other imperatives. I mean, first of all, I think the White House
would say that, you know, getting the economy not to be falling off a cliff
was really their first priority when the president first took office. You
did have the 750,000 jobs a month being lost. They had to stabilize the
economy first. And that, you know, and the White House`s way of sort of
describing it, their concern in the first term was that this would have
seemed like a side track to the economy, which had to be job one.
And then I think there`s just the pragmatic concerns of being re-
elected in a country where people were probably poised on some level to
accuse the president of favoritism, of favoring African-Americans of doing
things that were sort of unfair to the majority on behalf of African-
Americans. And I think the White House maybe had been oversensitive to
But now that the election has happened, and I think also in large part
because of the Trayvon Martin case, the president personally has decided
that this is something that he really wants to not just do, but also talk
about. And that he does want to directly start addressing issues of race
and racial disparity.
MORIAL: And you know, Lawrence, I think the other thing that what`s
been crystallized is in the post recession America, if we are fully in post
recession America, the deep challenges that young men of color face with
high unemployment, lore than necessary educational attainment, it cries out
for the leadership of the president. And this is an area where I welcome
and I`m enthusiastic about what this announcement will mean next week.
O`DONNELL: Well, I mean, let`s get it straight. As we all know, and
I think to my surprise, I`m actually surprise to know that people from time
to time on programs like this and others simply making very simple
observation that it is always, it is always a recession in black America.
We have an unemployment rate down in the six percentile area now, 6.8, 6.6,
something like that. It`s double that, it`s double that for African-
Americans. And if the African-American unemployment rate has always been
double the national unemployment rate. And Joy, it is virtually impossible
to get attention to that.
REID: It`s impossible to get attention to it. And I think for a lot
of Americans outside the African-American community, what they need to
understand is that why clearly not all African-Americans and Latinos are
struggling economically, the unemployment rate in the African-American
clearly actually pulls up the overall unemployment rate. So that if
African-Americans had the equivalent of full employment, I mean, we`ve had
six percent unemployment in among white, particularly white women for a
couple of years. Like even when the economy was really, really slow and
unemployment was up over eight percent, it was because of high African-
American and Latino unemployment. And when you have a country where the
aging bulge is in the baby boom that is much whiter, let`s just say, than
the younger bulge, which is much more minority. If that younger cohort is
underperforming economically, it is actually an existential threat to the
older cohort, because it is the younger Americans who actually pay for the
retirement of the aged. It is younger Americans who are much, much more
brown and black who have to pay into Social Security.
So, if you don`t fix the economic problems of African-Americans and
Latinos, you actually jeopardize the social safety net for the group that
seems sometimes less interested, or the least interested in programs
targeted to those younger black and brown Americans.
MORIAL: You know, I would add this and this is important. While it
seems to be an issue that is hard to get attention inside the beltway from
national policymakers, this is a recurring, intense passionate conversation
at the community level. In cities across the nation that I visit, it is
topic a, topic number one. Higher than necessary unemployment in black
America. The deep problems that young men of color face, and an
understanding that it fuels the underground economy and the drug trait. It
fuels the violence problem that we have in many, many communities. And
that`s why it`s timely, it`s necessary.
And I would even add, Lawrence for the nation, this is a more of crusader
nation of great prosperity, a nation of great ability, a nation of great
innovation, and a nation of great compassion cannot stand idly by and let
people be in the circumstances that they are without trying to meet them
Say you`ve got to be responsible. Say you`ve got to pull yourself up.
But giving you the tools necessary and the open doors necessary for you to
O`DONNELL: Marc Morial and Joy Reid, thank you both for joining me
MORIAL: Thank you.
REID: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Tomorrow night on "the last word," Jordan Davis` parents
will join me.
Coming up, the latest from Kiev where riot police went after
protesters, 14 protesters and possibly seven police officers seem to have
O`DONNELL: Vice president Joe Biden called Ukraine`s president
tonight to express concern and to urge restraint as riot police moved
against anti-government protesters in the capital city of Kiev.
These are live pictures from independence square, where it is about
5:39 Thursday morning. The protests started in November when Ukraine`s
president bowed to pressure from Russian president Vladimir Putin and
backed out of a trade agreement with the European Union. Russia gave
Ukraine $2 billion in aid, money Russia was withholding until the Ukrainian
government crushed the protests. At least 21 people have been killed in
the protests today.
NBC News chief correspondent Richard Engel has more.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It has all
the sign of a revolution. And it`s taking place in Kiev`s independence
square. Anti-government demonstrators barricaded themselves in, setting
bonfires, throwing stones, and lobbing Molotov cocktails even fireworks to
keep riot police from driving them out. They dared the riot police to
kill, to kill their own countrymen.
The violence began hours earlier when radical protesters tried to
march on parliament. But riot police drove them back with rubber bullets,
stun grenades and protesters say live ammunition.
The protesters had weapons of their own, including, the government
said, guns. Police officers were reportedly shot dead. Government forces
tried to shut down Kiev, stopping subway traffic to keep new protesters
from the square, and issuing a chilling ultimatum to clear out or the state
would use all legal means to restore order. But the protesters made a
stand in independence square and now there`s talk of revolution. Even
civil war with international implications, reminiscent of the cold war.
The Ukrainian government is backed by Moscow. The protesters want
closer ties with Europe and the United States. Moscow today directly
accused Washington of playing puppeteer manipulating the protesters.
Russia thinks the U.S. is behind the uprising to make Russia lose a key
ally that blood`s part of the Soviet Union. Today`s violence, the worst
since these clashes began three months ago could be a start for a new
future in Ukraine.
O`DONNELL: That was Richard Engel reporting. "The rewrite" is next.
O`DONNELL: And it`s only February, but we have a winner for worst
political strategy idea of the year. And the win goes to the Democrats.
Specifically the Democrats running the big Democratic Party super PAC,
Americans for prosperity. The conservative political group backed by the
billionaire Koch Brothers has already spent over $27 million on house and
Senate campaigns since August. That is an unprecedented early spending in
those campaigns where it is the norm to spend almost nothing on a Senate
campaign until the September of the election year. And the Koch Brothers
are pouring money into the United States Senate campaigns because they
never want to see this happen again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have decided to
nominate an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice, Judge
Sonia Sotomayor of the great state of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The single most important reason to vote for president is
the president`s choice of Supreme Court justices. Justice is usually serve
for decades after a president has left office and has more lasting impact
on the governing of the United States of America than the president does.
The most important reason for Democrats to maintain control of the United
States Senate is to maintain control of the confirmation process for the
Supreme Court justices, and everyone else the president nominates for
If the Koch brothers have their way, President Obama will never again
be able to nominate a wise Latina woman to the Supreme Court or possibly
any court because Republican control of the Senate would mean that the
Senate would not allow the confirmation of the kinds of judicial nominees
that have been confirmed by the Democratic Senate.
With three members of the United States Supreme Court pressing the
limits of life expectancy, according to actuarial tables, there are no
planned resignations of the court that we know of, but a vacancy always
remains a possibility.
The people running priorities USA, the Democrats` biggest super PAC
know all of this. And yet they have decided to contribute nothing to
United States Senate campaigns. And while they`re at it, they`ve decided
to contribute nothing to campaigns for the House of Representatives this
year. Instead they`re saving all of their money to pour into Hillary
Clinton`s presidential campaign.
This provoked Democratic Senator Dick Durbin to tell "The New York
Times," we`re faced with the grim reality that more money is being spent
earlier in some of these hot races than we`ve ever seen. We`re spending
some but we can`t keep up with them.
And it provoked David Axelrod to recently, very politely tweet, with
the Senate seriously at risk and the Koch brothers spending prodigiously,
shouldn`t Dem funders be focused on 2014 and not 2016 races, question mark.
That question mark is so excessively polite, there`s David Axelrod not
wanting to offend his friends at Priorities USA or any of the big Obama d
donors who are cooperating with this strategy. So instead of tweeting Dem
funders should be focused on 2014 and not 2016 races with an exclamation
point, David Axelrod politely poses a question that he knows the answer to.
It is a shockingly bad strategy. Priorities USA is now working towards
making Hillary Clinton`s time in the White House a pointless presidency.
If the Republicans win back the Senate, they will win back control of much
of the White House in effect, even if Hillary Clinton is living in that
White House. Because a Republican Senate will simply not even consider
confirming Hillary Clinton`s first, second or third choices for anything.
Forty-one out of 45 Republicans in the Senate voted against Republican
Chuck Hagel, who was once a senator, sitting beside them, to be President
Obama`s defense secretary. Imagine how far to the right of Chuck Hagel
Hillary Clinton`s defense secretary nominee would have to be in order to be
confirmed by a Republican Senate. Imagine how far to the right of Sonia
Sotomayor and Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Hillary Clinton`s
Supreme Court nominee would have to be in order to even get a hearing in a
Republican controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.
Such is the enormity of the disaster that the biggest democratic super
PAC, Priorities USA is now working to bring about. All the polls now
indicate that Priorities USA is probably going to achieve its dream of a
Hillary Clinton presidency. But if Priorities USA steps aside this year
and allows the Koch Brothers to have their way in the United States Senate,
Hillary Clinton will be president in name only.
And no, I didn`t find a way to put a question mark on that remark,
because I`ll never be as polite as David Axelrod.
O`DONNELL: Systematic widespread and gross human rights violations
have been and are being committed, says a new report, from the United
Nations about North Korea. It call what is happening in North Korea crime
against humanity. We will take a look inside what`s happening in North
Korea with a man who has been there next.
O`DONNELL: A new U.N. report has found that the leader of North
Korea, Kim Jung-Un has engaged in quote " systematic widespread and grave
violations of human rights. The report released Monday describes crimes
such as extermination murder and slave and torture and rape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)\
MICHAEL KIRBY, FORMER AUSTRALIAN HIGH COURT JUSTICE: I can see many
parallels between the story of North Korea and the story of the axis powers
in the Second World War. One of the witnesses in one of the camps told of
how he -- his duties included gathering up the bodies of those who had died
of starvation and putting them in a pot and burning them. And then taking
the ashes, but sadly also the remnant of unburned human bodies and then
burying that in nearby fields where it proved to be very good fertilizer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Human rights watch released a video in conjunction with
the U.N. report that features interviews with former prisoners.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Blaine Harden, author of "the escape
from camp 14: one man`s remarkable odyssey from North Korea to freedom in
the U.S." That book pushed the U.N. to launched its inquiry to the
trustees committed in North Korea.
Blaine, it must be on the one hand gratifying to have provoked the
U.N. to take action and to get into this investigation. But on the other
hand, it is absolutely horrifying to be discovering what some of these
things, many of them, I`m sure you have already known.
BLAINE HARDEN, AUTHOR, THE ESCAPE FROM CAMP 14: Well, it`s gratifying
that the U.N. is forcing the rest of the world to pay serious and sustained
attention to this issue. The facts that it disclosed yesterday on Monday
were not a surprise to people who have been following North Korea, but the
stridden language, the insistence that all the countries in the world pay
attention to this and never let it drop from their attention again is new
and important, and I think it will force particularly China to deal with
its role in facilitating what North Korea does.
O`DONNELL: Blaine, how does the regime maintain its control over this
system. It requires labor camp guards and prison guards who witnessed the
most grotesque forms of inhumanity.
HARDEN: What it does is keeps people from knowing about the outside
world. People throughout the country don`t know -- their context is
limited to what they`re told from childhood. And the camps are a classic
tool of totalitarian system. They eliminate the few people who have the
guts to speak out and they scare everyone else into silence. And measured
by that stick, they`ve been incredibly successful. They`ve been in place
for 50 years, more than 50 years, which is more than twice as long as the
gulag and more than 12 times longer than the Nazi camps and they show no
sign of changing.
What`s unique about North Korea is its sustained capacity for cruelty
to its own people. And what this report does in a way that no other U.N.
report has ever done, is to point out that this is a very part of the
system. And without this cruelty, without these camps without these kinds
of murders and extermination and rape, the state itself could not survive.
And that`s something the world needs to understand. There are no easy
solutions, though unfortunately.
O`DONNELL: When you imagine -- look, we lived through the collapse of
the Berlin wall, which I think many of us absolutely couldn`t imagine until
we actually saw it being dismantled. Is there a scenario you can imagine
where this regime goes the way of the Berlin wall?
HARDEN: You know, these kind of regimes collapse very quickly when
they collapse. Remember what happened in 1989, Romania was there and then
Romania was gone in a matter of hours. So it could happen. But China
sustains North Korea. It gives its all its petrol. Much of the goods that
are traded in the country come from China. China wants a buffer there.
And that`s what makes North Korea unique, is that China wants it to be
O`DONNELL: Blaine Harden gets tonight`s "Last Word."
Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
HARDEN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL