THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
February 19, 2014
Guests: Lucia McBath, Ron Davis, John Phillips, Julian Epstein
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the parents of Jordan Davis
join me once again. This time, they`ll give us their reaction to the
verdicts in the murder trial of Michael Dunn and their reaction to what one
of the jurors had to say about the case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The verdict in the Michael Dunn murder trial is
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The jury delivered a verdict in the trial of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s the man accused of killing a teenager.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn fired ten
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three of those shots killed 17-year-old Jordan
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dunn says he shot Davis in self-defense.
MICHAEL DUNN: He`s showing me a gun and he`s threatening me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No gun was ever found.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No weapon, however, was ever found at the scene.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was a mixed verdict.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guilty on four of five charges against Dunn.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s three counts of attempted murder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And one count of firing into the vehicle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The jury was unable to come to a decision on the
charge of first degree murder.
ANGELA COREY, FL STATE ATTORNEY: Retrying the case is something that
we`ve all had to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: State attorney Angela Corey.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That she would retry the case on the outstanding
COREY: And we`ll give it the same full attention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had no duty to retreat and had the right to
stand his ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Florida stand your ground law --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something that`s become sort of a matter of
confusion over this case.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stand your ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand your ground, the principle --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- is part of the standard self-defense jury
instruction in Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That principle is very much in the jury
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a hung jury. They just couldn`t reach a
verdict on that tough charge.
RON DAVIS, JORDAN DAVIS` FATHER: There`s a lot of good kids out
there. We raise them not to fear each other, to be good citizen in
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jordan`s parents spoke out in an emotional press
DAVIS: It wasn`t allowed to say in the courtroom that he was a good
kid. But we`ll say that he was a good kid.
LUCIA MCBATH, JORDAN DAVIS`S MOTHER: We will continue to stand. We
will continue to wait for justice for Jordan.
O`DONNELL: We now know that the first time the jury voted on the
charge of murder of Jordan Davis, there was almost unanimously in favor of
a conviction. Ten jurors said guilty, two said not guilty. By the time
their deliberations were complete, they were deadlocked on the murder
charge with nine saying guilty and three not guilty.
The juror identified only has Valerie told ABC News she voted guilty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Do you think Michael Dunn got away with murder?
VALERIE, JUROR: At this point, I do. Myself personally, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Valerie says the jurors voting not guilty on the murder
charge clung to the judge`s instruction to the jury on self-defense, which
included this, "If Michael Dunn was not engaged in an unlawful activity and
was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to
retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force,
including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to
do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself."
Valerie, the juror, explained how the jurors who voted not guilty on
the murder charge of Jordan Davis were able to vote guilty on the attempted
murder charges involving the other boys in the car. She explained that
after Michael Dunn fired the first shots from inside his car, he then got
out of his car, firing at the other car as that car was pulling away. And
none of the jurors thought that firing at the car as it was driving away
from Michael Dunn was justifiable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIE: We had a lot of discussion on him getting out of the car and
the threat is now gone, and your intent is yet to still go ahead and pursue
INTERVIEWER: So, for you all, a dividing line was when he officially
fired into the car thinking there was a weapon, that`s one thing. But when
the car pulled away and kept shoot --
INTERVIEWER: -- you all thought -- everyone thought he crossed a line
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Jordan Davis` parents, Lucia McBath and
Ron Davis, along with their lawyer, John Phillips.
John, and, Lucia, and, Ron, we all sat here together at this table
long before this trial. What seems like a long time ago and it really --
it hasn`t been that long, Lucia, since the very first time you learned of
this news when Ron had to tell you what had happened. The -- what are your
feelings now in the aftermath of this verdict?
MCBATH: A little shocked. Little dismayed. Even though I`m very
happy that the charges have been, you know, brought forth for Michael Dunn
for the boys. Justice has been served for them. Just a little dismayed
that we have to continue to fight a longer fight than we expected to
receive a just verdict for Jordan.
O`DONNELL: Ron, when you first heard the story and as the story
developed, and even in the pretrial stages, I`m sure it was very, very hard
for you to imagine what the defense was going to say. When you heard the
man who shot and killed your son get on the witness stand and tell this
story that you had, I`m sure, no ability to anticipate -- what did it feel
like in the courtroom as you heard this story unfold, about your son
threatening him, and he believing, him seeing, believing -- saying he saw
your son with a gun aimed at him.
DAVIS: I was thinking about what standing ground was showing that as
far as the force. What force was used against Michael Dunn? He sat up
there and told a story.
But at the bottom of the story is you can meet force with force. But
there was no force to him. Not a hair on his head was disturbed.
So, there was no force coming from Jordan. Verbally, there was --
it`s not going go through the windows, it`s not going to go through the
So, he made up a story. I could see him changing the story bit by
bit. The witness that heard him say, you`re not going to talk to me that
way, when you say that, that doesn`t mean you`re afraid. It sounds like
you want to do something to somebody else.
So, he kept changing his story. He changed that story to say
something else. You`re not going to kill me. He changed the story about
three or four times.
Even his girlfriend who was there, she said, well, you know, he never
said there was a weapon of any kind. Got back to the hotel, you`re in a
safe place in the hotel. Never said one time there was a weapon.
Got in your car and drove the next day, two and a half hours. When
you`re on the road, you speak about all kinds of things with your loved
ones. Never said one word about a weapon.
But all of a sudden, he gets to court, he makes up a weapon.
So, I think the jury has to see that and understand that. You can`t
let someone get up there and lie on the stand and then start looking at a
stand your ground and see a self-defense case, because when you impeach
yourself, you can`t keep saying it`s self-defense.
O`DONNELL: John Phillips, given what we`ve heard from the juror
Valerie so far, what we know about inside the jury room, does it -- is it
your interpretation that those three who were not willing to vote for a
conviction believed that Jordan -- that Jordan Davis -- I`m sorry, that the
defendant was actually threatened by a gun? Or that he just possibly
believed he was threatened by a gun?
JOHN PHILLIPS, ATTORNEY: That`s the standard. They believed through,
which he was impeached over and over and over again, but they gave the
benefit of the doubt to the Caucasian businessman, and they, I guess, in
their minds eye, some of these jurors said, yes, maybe I could see a --
O`DONNELL: How much of that doubt, do you think as a courtroom
professional, was expanded as a result of that judge`s instructions that I
just read about stand your ground?
PHILLIPS: People don`t understand stand your ground. And for that
language to even be in the jury instruction confuses people and it
inflames. And so, certainly, that`s the issue. And as Ron said, meet
force with force -- there was never even a car door`s worth of force put on
Michael Dunn or his vehicle.
O`DONNELL: The juror Valerie was asked what she might want to say to
you, and this is what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIE: I would say I am sorry, of course. Nothing will bring back
their son. I hope that they feel that we didn`t do them a disservice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Lucia, what`s your reaction to that?
MCBATH: I really believe that they struggled. I believe it was a
very, very difficult time for them. I believe that they put their heart
and soul into really deciding what the truth was.
The fact that they stayed there as many hours as they did is and I
case that they looked at every angle, they listened to every story and
looked at every fact. But there again the law is what clouded them being
able to make the decision that they needed to make. But we do believe that
they tried as best as they could to really make a justice decision for the
boys and for Jordan.
O`DONNELL: Ron, Valerie said that it got very heated in that jury
deliberation room. A lot of anger was exchanged, yelling, profanity.
There was a real fight over this judgment about your son.
DAVIS: It`s because you have mothers in the room, fathers in the
room. And what happens is, when you know in your heart that somebody did
not have to do it, as Valerie said, it was something you could have rolled
up your window, keep it rolled up. You could have pulled into another
parking pot. She named about three or four different ways that Michael
Dunn could have avoided, you know, the confrontation.
But he continued the confrontation with the children by rolling the
window down yet again, and then bringing a gun to a verbal fight. You
know? And so, I understand what she`s saying. And I just definitely want
to let her know that I think she did all she could to preserve my son`s
legacy and to make sure that Michael Dunn was found guilty.
And when you have a jury of 12, sometimes there`s nothing else that
you can do but scream and holler from the rafters. He killed a kid he
didn`t have to. And that`s what he`s saying.
I agree with her. My heart goes out to her. It`s tearing her up and
that`s probably why she was the first one to come forward.
O`DONNELL: There are things that the jury did not know about Michael
Dunn, including this phone call from prison. We`re going to listen to
this. I want to get your reactions to it after.
But again, this is something that the jury never heard.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ROUER: I know you`re innocent, baby. I know you did something that
you wish you didn`t want to have to do but you did what you had to. And so
DUNN: Look, I was thinking about that today. I`m the (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) victim here. I was the one who was victimized. I mean, I don`t
know how else to put it. It`s like they attacked me. I`m the victim.
DUNN: I`m the victor but I was the victim, too.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He thinks he`s the victor and the victim.
MCBATH: I think Michael Dunn has perceived ideas in his mind as to
what really happened. I think his judgment is very clouded as to what
really happened. And I think a lot of that kind of judgment is what
enabled him to do what he did, because he feels justified.
O`DONNELL: Ron, you hear that. What`s your reaction?
DAVIS: My reaction is that Michael Dunn should understand that the
victim was the one that had a bullet go through his lungs, a bullet tear
The victim is the one that was choking on his own blood and was
gasping for air. The victim was a 17-year-old teenager that should have
had his whole life in front of him, that was seeing his life go away in
seconds. And he probably was so fearful and his friends were looking on,
watching their best friend die in a moment of seconds. That`s the victim.
O`DONNELL: I asked people on Twitter what they wanted to tell you or
-- ask you. Kevin Ware said, "Please tell them that my heart aches for
them. Period." There are thousands of people tweeting tonight.
How does that make you feel? Does that help?
DAVIS: It does.
MCBATH: It does. We have received so much support from all across
the nation because we`ve taken a lot of time to make sure that people
really knew who Jordan was. And I think that people understand that we`ve
been good parents. And we raised a good boy. Not a perfect child, but a
And I think that people have been able to see the truth and we`ve
very, very humbled by the fact that we have so many people that are
standing with this and supporting us that way.
O`DONNELL: Ron, Barry Shiller (ph) wrote, "Tell us something about
Jordan the trial didn`t reveal. And what would you say to his murder if
you had the opportunity?"
DAVIS: Something about Jordan is that Jordan was very competitive.
He was a leader of his friends. You know, whenever he had friends in
Atlanta and also friends in Jacksonville. And where it was determining
where they would go to the mall, he was always the determining factor.
Jordan was very competitive with me. He wanted to beat his dad in all
sports, and beat his dad in all games, PlayStation, whatever it was, he
wanted to beat his dad. Whether it be playing risk on the computer, or
If I said look at World War II DVDs, he would sit with me and comment
on World War II. Most kids that age wouldn`t care about World War II, but
because I cared about it, he cared about it. That`s what I have to say
If I was in front of Michael Dunn, I would have to say -- you have to
understand, sir, that everybody that you tell to cut down their music is
not going to do it. And sometimes they don`t do it, that doesn`t mean you
have to take their life. You know?
I`ve heard it since the trial that there`s other people that you`ve
asked to turn the music down and you thought -- and they did it. So then
you were fine with that because they did it. But when my son doesn`t do
it, you think his life is so worthless that you would consider that an act
that you have to fatally shoot him.
I think you should look at your surroundings right now and understand
that is not the way we live in America.
O`DONNELL: Lucia, is there something you would like to say to Michael
MCBATH: I`ve thought many, many times before this if to I ever got
the opportunity to speak to him, what would I say?
And what I would say to him is that not only did you take Jordan`s
life, but you took my future. I won`t have grandchildren. I will never
have a daughter-in-law. I will never have all of those things that you see
in your children as your legacy. I don`t have those things anymore.
But what he will need to understand is that in some way, shape or
form, he will pay. He will pay, even if we don`t ever receive the verdict
for Jordan, he will pay because he`s going to spend the rest of his life in
jail. And I feel sorry for him for that.
O`DONNELL: You know, for John and I, people who have spent a lot of
time in courtrooms, the way criminal lawyers score wins is, does the client
walk out of the building? That`s the win. And they just -- they score it
in terms of sentence.
They don`t -- the criminal lawyers themselves don`t really care what
the conviction comes in on. They score it in terms of sentence.
And so, Lucia makes the point, this is the rest of his life. He`s
being sentenced to a period over, past his age of 100.
Ron, what about that? What about that? How should -- how should we
as a society define justice here? And how will you two define I justice
DAVIS: Justice for me is, we know he`s going away for quite a long
time. If he gets out, he will be well over 100 years old. However, I want
the law in the state of Florida to say to the nation, he was not justified
in murdering my son, you know?
And for me and Lucia, we just have to have that. Now, if we don`t get
it, we can live with that because he`s still behind bars, you know? And --
but to make the healing process start, we need to have the justice system
look at this and say, he was not just in killing Jordan Davis. How many
young kids are going to have what we have, which is a lighted gas station,
witnesses, three boys to testify -- you know, all these things, all these
facts were shown in the courtroom and we still can`t get a conviction that
he did wrong.
Most of the times, the kids maybe by themselves driving, and they get
shot. What`s going to happen then when you don`t have the witnesses, you
don`t have the light on the gas station. You don`t have independent
witnesses. You don`t have a guy with no 911 call racing home to get away
from what he did, ordering pizza when he gets to the hotel.
All of these things should have swayed the jurors to understand this
guy actually killed my son and murdered my son and they still couldn`t come
back with a conviction. So, we`re still waiting for justice for Jordan.
O`DONNELL: I have to tell you, the most common thread in all comments
about you today online, people knowing you were coming here was just awe
for your composure and grace in this situation. And I share that. And I
can`t thank you enough.
MCBATH: Thank you so much for having us.
DAVIS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We hold the Ukrainian
government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with
peaceful protesters in an appropriate way, that the Ukrainian people are
able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Ukrainian government says there is a truce tonight,
but protests continue even after riot police tried to disband protesters
last night. As many as 26 people have been killed. Tonight, the U.S.
State Department put sanctions on 20 Ukrainian officials involved in the
crackdown by restricting their visas to enter the United States.
The protests began three months ago, when Ukraine`s president
abandoned a trade deal with Europe in favor of a trade deal with Russia and
Russia`s foreign minister tweeted tonight the blame for this also
rests with many western countries that interfered in the events by courting
the protesters. That is of course a reference to the United States.
President Obama said this at a press conference a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Our approach as the United States is not to see this as some
Cold War chess board in which we`re in competition with Russia. Our goal
is to make sure the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for
themselves about their future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is MSNBC contributor Steve Clemons.
Steve, this -- I guess you could say that we could see some of this
coming, but I`m not sure we can see where this is going.
STEVE CLEMONS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think where we see it going
is probably a serious escalation. We`ve had one of the protest groups are
a hard right wing nationalist wing that`s very anti-Russian reject the
truce compromise. The opposition itself is not monolithic. It`s quite
And the interesting thing -- a lot of people are comparing what`s
happening right now in Ukraine with Syria and looking at what -- you know,
outside observers watch. What`s really interesting about Ukraine is that
the protests than are taking place are deeply authentic, deeply embedded in
that society. And these people aren`t waiting for Europe and the United
States to pitch in, to intervene. This isn`t, you know, a group trying to
generate red lines that are crossed. This is deep in the soul and identity
We`re fairly irrelevant to what`s going on. That`s why I think it`s
fairly certain we`re going to see an escalation there. And you`re going to
see a lot of tension between Russia and the United States over this because
fundamentally, we would like the story that Ukraine tilted towards western
liberal democracy, towards Europe. And Vladimir Putin wants to keep this
country kind of well snuck under his armpit.
I think there`s going to be a lot of war of words. But our options
are fairly limited.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what John Kerry had to say about this
today in Paris.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Yanukovych has the
opportunity to make a choice. The choice is between protecting the people
that he serves, all of the people, and the choice for compromise and
dialogue versus violence and mayhem. We believe the choice is clear and we
are talking about the possibility of sanctions or other steps with our
friends in Europe and elsewhere, in order to try to create the environment
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Steve, is Yanukovych capable of making the kind of what
John Kerry considers the positive choice here?
CLEMONS: The White House seems to think he is. If you listen and you
really look carefully at the words that President Obama has used, Joe Biden
has used in a number of conversations with Yanukovych and now, John Kerry,
as well as European leaders, they`re not writing Yanukovych off. It`s very
interesting. They`re trying to keep an on-ramp for him to walk this down
and detoxify the situation.
But the man is under incredible pressure obviously. And Vladimir
Putin and I think Russia have put a lot of their own money and cash on the
table to try to seduce him to sort of stay on the track where they`re
But what we see going on, and it`s a little bit scary, is the
possibility that we`re seeing Vladimir Putin in Russia essentially softly
re-impose some of the contours of the Cold War. Now, Russia is not the
Soviet Union, not playing the same game, but we`re seeing a crisis -- you
can go back to Georgia. You can go back to the recognition of Kosovo. You
can take Edward Snowden, residing in Russia. You can take Syria.
And in case after case after case, we`re dealing with these as little
incidents, isolated from one another. But Russia increasingly seems to be
challenging us at all sorts of points. And Ukraine, of course, is far, far
more consequential to Russia and frankly to European and American
aspirations than Syria.
So, this is -- this is a big contest, for influence, and the
perception of influence in the world.
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
CLEMONS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up later in "The Rewrite", an encore appearance by
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost my job six, seven months ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m a year short of qualifying for my
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had some cutbacks. I was the most skilled
technician and also the highest paid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To my unemployment to in now, I wouldn`t have
money to go on an interview.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My retirement was going away as a result of this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do have a husband, thank God, or I would be
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell Republicans, restore unemployment benefits
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid
plans to give Senate Republicans yet another chance to vote on restoring
emergency unemployment benefits for more than a million people. Only four
Republicans joined every Democrat on the bill was last brought to a vote in
early February. But that wasn`t enough to get to the 60 vote threshold
needed to pass.
Today, "Politico" reports that some Senate Republicans are now
desperately searching for an exit on the issue. A group of Senate
Republicans is meeting quietly to plot an unusual strategy passing the top
Democratic priority. Senators Dan Coates of Indiana, Rob Portman of Ohio,
Dean Heller of Nevada and Susan Collins of Maine want a deal that could
bring the Democratic drum beat to an end.
Coates and Portman were previous no votes on the bill which was co-
sponsored by Heller and Democrat Jack Reid of Rhode Island who represents
states with the highest unemployment rates in the country. President Obama
used his weekly address to call on Congress to raise the federal minimum
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now there`s a
bill in Congress that would boost America`s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
That`s easy to remember, 10.10. You deserve to know where the people who
represent you stand on this issue. If they don`t sup raising the federal
minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, ask them why not?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Republicans think they have their answer to that in a new
report from the congressional budget office. The CBO found that if
Congress increases the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, about 16.5 million
workers who will earn less than $10.10 an hour under the current law would
receive higher wages. That`s pretty obvious. The $10.10 option would
reduce the number of people in families whose income is below the poverty
threshold by about 900,000 or two percent fewer people in poverty. OK.
And once fully implemented in the second half 2016, the $10.10 option would
reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent. And
that`s the Republican`s answer.
Joining me now, MSNBC policy analyst, Ezra Klein. He is building a
new site at Vox Media.
Ezra, Republicans first seizing on the last one that CBO is saying it
could decrease employment at the low end of the pay scale, minimum wage
under pay scale by about 500,000 jobs.
EZRA KLEIN, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Here`s what you would
like to see. I would like to see Republicans stand up and say look,
because of the CBO report, we`re not going to support the minimum wage.
But what we are going to do is say tax rich people or take money from
defense or do something to increase the earned income tax credit or bring
back the making or pay tax credit because that would boost the pay for the
low income tax earners without having any dis-employment effects at all
where just only to say that there are real trades off in raising the
minimum wage. I think it is part of the local lower than the CBO court
says. But I think it is a reasonable estimate they made there.
There are real tradeoffs. But if you don`t want to make those
tradeoff, and you need some kind of alternative. Simply saying, well, we
will do nothing to help low income workers who have absolutely no
bargaining power in the current economy is not a reasonable answer. That`s
the worst tradeoff of all.
O`DONNELL: Well, you know, I agree with the White House on this.
That there is probably a zero effect at the lower end. I`ve been studying
this effect on minimum wage increases for 25 years now. And using classic
tools of economic which the show has been pointed out, never worked in the
real world, ever, because the variables are too complex. It would indicate
a loss of employment.
But we won`t argue our way through that one tonight, Ezra, But the
politics going forward on the extension of unemployment benefits, is the
dynamic changing for Republicans on this? Or not if Republican, the
handful of Republicans that they need to pass it.
KLEIN: It changes with every day we get closer to the election,
right? Now. how quickly that actually goes I think is anybody`s guess.
But I think the psychology of the Republicans, right, are coming up on the
election is they have a winning hand. Obamacare had a really rough launch
and the economy is getting better, but it`s not roaring by my means.
Democrats have had a number of troubles this year. There`s no great sort
of excitement on the horizon for Democrats in terms of legislation. The
demographics are more favorable for Republicans in midterms. So what they
don`t want are any highly popular issues that cut against them.
So, that is going to be a strong incentive for them to just get this
unemployment issue off the table because in truth, they don`t even oppose
it all that much. But how they wait before they do that? How many people
suffer until it actually happens, that I think is still anybody`s guess.
O`DONNELL: There`s a Quinnipiac poll taken last month indicating that
72 percent support increasing the federal minimum wage, 27 percent are
against it, and 27 percent, of course, is all it takes for virtually all
Republicans to be against it. We`ve kind of moved into another world of
politics where polling of overwhelming majorities on things like that don`t
seem to have any effect on Republicans.
KLEIN: Absolutely not. I mean, intense minorities are very capable
in American politics and particularly lately. But this is in part why
Democrats are pushing a minimum wage instead of something like the earned
income tax credit. It is an incredible high polling issue for them. They
did it in the 2006 in 2006 elections. You remember, President Bush signed
a minimum wage increase into law after that. And certainly, Democratic
hope is that they`ll do it again. CBO reports despite what once like mean
you might hope, where it end up changing elections and certainly the
Democrats are looking at the minimum wage. And as President Obama says the
easy to remember 10.10 number is an issue they can use to battle
Republicans in the midterm elections even if they`re not going to get it
over the finish line before then.
O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
KLEIN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Chris Christie investigation goes to court.
O`DONNELL: On this day in history, President Franklin Delano
Roosevelt did something that we should never forget, and that`s next in
O`DONNELL: On this day February 19 in 1942, 74 days after the bombing
of pearl harbor by Japan, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed
executive order 9066. It reads in part, I hereby authorize and direct the
secretary of war to prescribe a military areas in such places and of such
extent as he or the appropriate military commander may determine from which
any or all persons may be excluded and with respect to which the right of
any person to enter, remain in or leave shall be subject to whatever
restrictions the secretary of war, or the appropriate military commander
may impose in his discretion.
Executive order 9066 gave the war department the power to create and
run prison camps here in the United States. Thirty days after President
Roosevelt signed the order, Congress passed public law 503, implementing it
and the government began filling those camps with Japanese Americans along
with some German-Americans and Italian-Americans.
By 1943, 122,000 men, women and children were forced into these prison
camps that were scattered around the country. One of our regular guests
here on "the Last Word" was forced into one of those camps with his family
when he was a child. He told us the story this way.
GEORGE TAKEI, LIVE IN TWO U.S. INTERMENT CAMP: When I was a kid, I
grew up in two U.S. internment camps simply because we had to look like --
O`DONNELL: In California.
TAKEI: Well, no. The swamps of Arkansas. We lived in California.
O`DONNELL: And you were hauled all the way out there.
TAKEI: To Arkansas. And then we were later transferred to another
one in northern California. But we were there only because we happened to
look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor. A year into internment, the
government realized there was a wartime manpower shortage. And when the
military was opened up for service by Japanese-Americans, thousands of
young Japanese-Americans went from those internment camps to fight for this
country. They were put into a segregated unit, fought on those bloody
battlefields in Europe and came back the most decorated unit of the entire
World War II. They exercised something that was very important. They did
it for their families, certainly, but for the greater good because they
loved America. They sacrificed themselves and many, many perished on those
O`DONNELL: I`ve driven by northern California, one of the internment
camps and there`s really nothing there except you have to know on the map
that this is where the -- no structure left.
TAKEI: They were all in the most desolate places.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And it is completely desolate place. It`s an
astonishing thing to ponder. You know, I`ve pulled over and I look at the
little identifier that tells us this is where it is. It`s shown to my
daughter and talked about it. Driven by a couple of times actually. And
it is just so astonishing that was so recent, so easy to do at the time.
So hard to see what was wrong with it from the people outside the camps who
put you there.
TAKEI: And it was too irrational because it was Hawaii that was
bombed. But if they had intern -- the Japanese-Americans on Hawaii -- in
Hawaiian territory, were not incarcerated. Because they were about half
the population and the economy would have collapsed. We who were on the
west coast of America were thinly spread out. We were primarily into rural
areas, farmers. And so, some were acquiring land and becoming quite
successful. And so it was hysteria and greed and lack of political
O`DONNELL: On this day in 1976, 31 years after the World War II, the
president of the United States Gerald Ford finally terminated President
Roosevelt`s executive order 9066. Terminated, but never to be forgotten.
O`DONNELL: Chris Christie`s chairman of the Port authority apologized
today for what happened to the George Washington Bridge. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID SAMSON, CHAIR, PORT AUTHORITY: I cannot allow this agency to be
mischaracterized by the actions of a few individuals when the day to day
work of so many including this ford is so important. On behalf of the
board of commissioners, we are deeply sorry for the inconvenienced caused
to our travelers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is David Samson speaking today at an open meeting of
the port authority of the New York and New Jersey. Dave Samson is the
chairman of the point authority appointed to that position by New Jersey
governor Chris Christie. Samson obviously knew he had to say something
about the scandal at the George Washington Bridge, but he wasn`t prepared
to say much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMSON: While I would like to comment more specifically about some of
the outstanding issue, I recognize that there are established efforts to
examine the events that occurred. I defer to these procedures and I trust
that when the facts unfold, and they will unfold, the public will have a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The New Jersey legislative investigative committee went to
court today asking for a court order to get two of Chris Christie`s former
aides to comply with subpoenas, Bridget Kelly, Chris Christie`s now fired
deputy chief of staff, and Bill Stepien, is now fired campaign manager are
now pleading the fifth amendment and their refusal to comply with the
committee`s subpoenas. The committee`s lawyers told the court, as the
person who offered the e-mail stating that it was time for traffic problems
for Fort Lee, Ms. Kelly certainly has relevant information about the
subject matter of the committee`s investigation. The committee was well
within its rights to ask Ms. Kelly, a statement employee, using state
resources to communicate about the official state action of closing access
lanes to produce any further information she has.
Joining me now is attorney Julian Epstein, a Democratic strategist and
former council to the house Judiciary Committee.
Julian, there`s David Samson today in his little apology note at that
public hearing at the port authority attributing what happened at the
George Washington Bridge to the actions of a few individuals. That list of
individuals is expanding every day. It may very well include David Samson
himself, who is deeply entrenched in this whole story. But now we`re
finding out about Chip Michaels, this police officer who seems close to
camp Christie who was driving David Wildstein around as an additional e-
mail communication coming out about him. Coming up with a better idea
about how to make the traffic jam worse. To attribute this event that
happened at the bridge of this stat to as Samson did to the actions of a
few individuals. That`s just patently false based on what we know On the
Record so far.
JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s right. And the plot
continues to thicken every day. And the interesting thing is apart from
Mr. Samson`s kind of, I think lame explanation, there still is no counter
narrative out there that the governor has put out, or the governor staff
has put out. And it`s very interesting what`s going on with respect to the
legislative committee going to court today to get the documents for which
Mr. Stepien and Ms. Kelly are claiming the fifth amendment. For the most
O`DONNELL: Can they get those documents? I mean, they`re government
e-mails on government -- they are owned by the government, aren`t they?
EPSTEIN: Yes, that`s right. They`re going to get them and they tier
going to get them for a couple of reasons. First, the fifth amendment
rarely applies to documents. It applies to compelled testimony against
once oneself. It can apply to documents in rare instances where, for
example, the government is saying I suspect somebody of drug trafficking
and they subpoena that person and they say give me all the documents that
show you may have been involved in drug trafficking. In that case, the
production of the documents may be incriminating.
But here you have something entirely different. You have, first of
all, documents, as you just pointed out, are government documents.
Secondly, the government is already aware of these documents. And is aware
of the incriminating behavior surrounding documents. So the production of
them seems to me not to add too much additional incriminatory information.
Third, it is likely that these documents were sent to other people. The
government can certainly -- no privilege would apply to documents of
possession of the third parties. And fourth, keep in mind, Lawrence that
the government can issue limited use immunity of these documents. So they
can get, at the end of the day, they will be able to get access to these
Now, why are these documents so important? It seems to me looking at
this thing from the outside, there are three time periods that are going on
in this investigation. One is the actual kind of conspiracy and planning
phase up until September 9th when the bridge -- when the lane closure is
actually executed. The second is this period between September 13th and
say January 9th, the governor`s press conference, which I would refer to as
kind of the cover-up phase. And then the last phase would be after January
9th, the obstruction phase.
I think the prosecutors are looking at this second phase between
September 13th and say, early January. The governor`s position during this
phase is a very -- he takes a very innocent position that he was --
O`DONNELL: He was laughing about it then. He was telling about it
jokes. Of course, I was out there playing with the cones. It was all a
joke to him then.
EPSTEIN: Right. So let me finish this line of thought. He has this
innocent explanation where he believed it was a traffic study and that he
had believed he had been duped and was a victim of his own staff.
Now, many people find that incredulous, because you have an
investigative -- an investigation that`s been started by the legislature in
late September, early October. You have the head of the port authority
saying the lane closure was illegal, and you have resignations of two
Now, if these documents that we`re talking about that the legislative
committee is going to court on show that Christie one, knew that the
explanation for the lane closures was not innocent and, in fact, there was
some misbehavior there, and secondly, more importantly, was involved in an
effort to try to contain or cover up the evidence of that, either for press
purposes of for legal purposes, then the governor is in very, very, very
Then you start talking about a whole range of criminal statutes that
are involved in obstruction, on cover-up and conspiracy. And it`s widely
known, at least it`s been reported in the press that at least during this
period of time between September 13 after these lane closures become real
public knowledge. It`s on this program. It`s debated in the news media,
and January, the governor -- in m people inside the governor`s staff know
that this is a controversy and a scandal that is brewing.
It just is inconceivable to me that the governor as a former
prosecutor -- a former U.S. attorney, and I`ve been around a lot of
politicians. A lot of politicians that have gotten into trouble is
inconceivable to me that in the face of all of this stuff that is going on,
the resignations, the statement by the port authority, the investigation by
the legislative committee, that the governor doesn`t call all his staff
together and say what went with on.
So, the danger the governor here in these documents and this period of
time is evidence this is going to come out that he knew that there was
misbehavior going on, and if he knew, then the question is going to be, did
he take steps to try to cover it up. If the documents show that hid at
that, the governor`s problems are going to get a lot of worse.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And if that is what`s in there, he needs his team to
fight for the release of those documents as long as possible.
Julian Epstein, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
EPSTEIN: Yes. Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL