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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Read the transcript to the Thursday show


September 18, 2014

Guest: Craig Timberg, Charlie Warzel, Seema Iyer, Tim Carpenter, Alastair
Jamieson; Ramin Setoodeh

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: Good evening, amen, and thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Ari. Thanks, man.

MELBER: We have some special coverage of the Scottish independence
vote. Tonight, a look at breaking political news in Kansas.

But, first, a break through in privacy protections for your phone
today, and not from Congress or the courts.


TIM COOK, APPLE CEO: We`re not reading your e-mail. We`re not
reading your iMessage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new policy for privacy from Apple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A good positioning for them to take.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With the highly hyped, much anticipated release
of the iPhone 6 and 6-Plus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am amazed. This thing is going to be way

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The new Apple mobile operating system.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It keeps data so private, it won`t allow police
to retrieve data from iPhones or iPads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite bold coming on the heels of the iCloud

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New encryption prevents the company from unlocking

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even Apple can`t crack the security.

The government wants tech companies to give up information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The blowback to the tech companies with their own

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The theft and leak of NSA and IC documents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These disclosures by Edward Snowden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The perfect storm that`s dogging and degrading our

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This move by Apple could be a start of a sort of


MELBER: Good evening. I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

Today, there was a major development in protecting Americans` privacy
and it came from corporate America. You may remember back in June when the
Supreme Court expanded warrant protections for searching cell phones,
reasoning that the modern cell phone is one of the most personal and
important possessions that a citizen has.

Well, today, two big companies are going further, announcing that
their policies will make any of those cell phone searches actually
impossible. The idea is to enhance phone security and sideline government
requests for remote access to your phone.

And here`s how Apple put it in its privacy policy for the new
operating system, iOS8, on devices running that program, your personal data
such as photos, messages, including attachments, e-mails, contact, call
history, notes is all placed under the protection of your passcode.
"Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore
cannot access this data. So, it`s not technically feasible for us to
respond to government warrants for extraction of this data from devices in
there," that is the government`s possession.

Now, on the "Charlie Rose Show" this week, Apple CEO also talked up
these changes as a competitive edge for the privacy-oriented consumer.


COOK: We`re not reading your e-mail. We`re not reading your
iMessage. If the government laid a subpoena on us to get your iMessages,
we can`t provide it. It`s encrypted and we don`t have the key.

We`re not in that business. I`m offended by lots of it. And so, you
know, I think people have a right to privacy.

So, I think that`s going to be a very key topic over the next year or
so, and we`ll reach higher and higher levels of urgency as more and more
incidents happen.


MELBER: That is, of course, an implicit rebuke to Google`s business
model, which provides many free services and then harvests your information
for a profit, as an old Internet saying goes you might have heard of, if
you`re not paying for it, you`re not the customer, you`re the product being

Now, Google was quick to respond today, however, saying that its new
operating system for the Android will have a similar automatic data
encryption for the first time. The encryption had been optional since

But some result here is that now, most Americans have higher levels of
privacy protection than the law requires. Android and Apple provide some
1.5 billion phones worldwide. So, this is a big deal.

But some law enforcement experts also say this shift comes with a very
big cost.

Joining me now is Craig Timberg, who broke the story for "The
Washington Post", Charlie Warzel, tech editor for BuzzFeed, a pretty
digital place in and of itself, and Seema Iyer, former prosecutor and
current criminal defense and civil rights attorney.

Welcome to you all.

Let me start with you, Craig, from your reporting. Why is this such a
big deal, especially for people who care what`s on their phone but think,
hey, I don`t ever expect to run into the cops anyway.

CRAIG TIMBERG, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, the thinking was customers
aren`t very good at maintaining their own data privacy. We don`t really
understand all these settings were. But here, the companies are stepping
in. They`re encrypting all of these things by default for the first time.
So, even if we don`t know anything about how your smartphone works, your
data is protected from the police.

MELBER: And, Charlie, when you look at this, and say protected from
the police, what`s so interesting here, because we often think about this
in terms of law and constitutional rights and the protections, which
basically means the government stepping in in some way and having a rule to
protect you from what it might do. This is different, right? This is sort
of code.

CHARLIE WARZEL, TECH EDITOR, BUZZFEED: Yes. This is -- this is Apple
saying today that if we don`t even have -- we don`t even possess the
ability to get at this stuff. I mean, this isn`t necessarily -- you know,
we`re not going to do it because we don`t want to do it. This is like,
this is one of those Ulysses pacts. You don`t -- you`re not -- physically
not able.

And it is really sort of -- it`s a bold maneuver and they`re saying to
the government, you`re going to have to work within this ecosystem that we
just built.

MELBER: And as a sort of techie, do you like it?

WARZEL: Yes, I mean, I think it`s important. I think -- you know,
Tim Cook saying that this is going to be a big thing for a year or two.
This is going to be a big thing for the rest of time. These devices are
getting more and more personal. They`re demanding more and more from us to

And so, you know, we really need to make sure that this stuff is
protected for the average person who, as Craig said, isn`t aware of how to
change these features.

MELBER: Right. And the personal side to it, and the reason why the
Supreme Court in that decision, which was unanimous this year, which
Lawrence O`Donnell talked about a lot of the time was such a big deal
because a lot of people, especially young people, but everyone these guys
has a phone, would rather let the government or a cop kind of go through
your papers or your folders or your drawer than your phone. We know how
much private stuff is on there.

And yet, Seema, as someone who`s actually prosecuted cases and thought
about public safety, what does it mean to you in this situation, where not
only is it a barrier to cops getting this material, but in many cases, what
the cops are being told, even with a warrant, Apple is not going to help.

SEEMA IYER, ATTORNEY: Right. Until it is an emergency. And that`s
where things get very interesting, because let`s say I am approached by the
police and there is an emergency. Ari is being held hostage somewhere, I
have the location on the cell phone. They say to me, OK, we need your
passcode, open the phone. No, shoot Ari, I don`t care what happens.

And then they hold a gun to me, I give the passcode up, they find you,
they arrest me, everything gets suppressed -- evidence under the covers.

And this is -- this is a life-changing moment in the criminal justice
system. And the ability to procure evidence is no longer the same. The
evidence that will be presented in any type of case, Ari, whether it`s a
robbery or a rape or murder, usually, the phones are taken, and now,
there`s a search warrant. They look under the context under communications
to corroborate.

How are they going to get that now?

MELBER: And, Craig, let me bring you back in to that point and
mention, as you know from your reporting, you write about FBI and other
officials saying this is going to make it harder. There`s a larger
context, of course, here which is Apple is also responding and Yahoo
recently litigated that some of these companies feel the NSA originally
under Bush but then under this administration has gone too far.

Take a listen to what James Clapper said about that.



environment also includes the recent factors that affect intelligence
community capabilities, what I have referred to on the Hill as the "perfect
storm", that`s dogging and degrading our capabilities. The theft and leak
of NSA and IC documents and loss of collection as a result, the resulting
damaged relationships with foreign and corporate partners.


MELBER: Craig, I want to be clear, you have the national intelligence
director, he`s saying the leaks he`s mad about that have hurt his
relationship with the corporations. You got some corporations like Yahoo
who say it`s not the leaks, it`s the underlying overt sort of surveillance
that they had a problem with.

TIMBERG: Right. They also thought this wasn`t ever going to come
out, right? I mean, nobody saw Edward Snowden coming, but it`s a complete
game changer for the companies, for the government, for the politics.

What`s been fascinating to me is that even as the political system has
trouble digesting this and Congress hasn`t really acted to, you know,
necessarily clamp down on a lot of these issues, the companies are. And
technologists are looking for ways to deal with these issues of government
overreach on their own. They`re not waiting for governments to do things.
And that`s part of what`s going on here, is that companies are trying to
protect their reputations, they`re trying to protect their businesses,
particularly overseas where the backlash has been so intense. And they`re
looking to the code to solve this problem as opposed to the legal code.

MELBER: But, do you buy Craig, do you buy the idea here, because
let`s be a little skeptical of the corporations here. Do you buy this idea
that now they just care so much about privacy, that this is Apple`s edge?

TIMBERG: Not at all, frankly. What`s clear is privacy has become
very good business at this point. There`s profit in privacy. Apple is
working hard to really distinguish itself from Google on these matters,

Google has kind of won the fight to be the smart phone operating
system of the world. Android has taken over almost everywhere outside the
United States. This is apple`s play, right? We`re gong to be more secure.
We`re going to give you better privacy. That`s not a bad message to tell
for them.

MELBER: Yes. And, Seema, to put some of this in context, because
there are some report where is companies disclose how often this is

IYER: Right.

MELBER: Apple says look, when they respond to these kind of
government requests, it`s less than 0.003 percent of customers that
actually had their data disclosed due to government information requests,
which would go to some say the police argument that look, most of you all
don`t have to worry about this.

IYER: But some people do. Because there`s so much -- I had a case
last week, the iPhones were taken. And just because a subpoena takes a
while to respond to doesn`t mean that Apple doesn`t have to comply before
today, before the new operating system. It`s like, for instance, a
toxicology exam, it takes two weeks. These things take time.

The issue, and this is what you opened with, you said the word it is
impossible now to comply.

MELBER: Functionally, yes.

WARZEL: I think one thing that`s really fascinating, first of all,
all of this is just how apple and these tech companies are so powerful now
that they can just do this.

MELBER: Right.

WARZEL: And just completely -- I mean, I don`t think they even --
they`re obviously thinking about this very hard, but to them, this is a
public relations thing. This is a, you know, it is good for business.

It`s also just -- it`s game changing. And it has these ripple effects
on the criminal justice system. And that`s, you know, that`s the space
that we`re living in now with these companies. They are so unbelievably

MELBER: And they`re writing the rules in a way that matter. Because
the idea oh, you could use something else or opt out. Well, no, for a lot
of people, especially those hooked on their iPhone they can`t opt out.

Craig Timberg, Charlie Warzel and Seema Iyer, thank you all for your
time tonight. Interesting story, we`ll keep watching.

Now, coming up next, we have a huge blow for Republicans in Kansas who
were trying to protect their incumbent senator from a tough challenge.
Something you may have heard about. That is next.

And, of course, we`re going to take you love to Edinburgh, Scotland,
where the votes are being counted. If Scotland leaves the United Kingdom,
what happens to working with America`s closest ally?


MELBER: We have more information tonight about what Jonathan Dwyer,
the Arizona Cardinals running back is accused of doing to his wife and
child. He was arrested yesterday on aggravate assault charges. Now,
investigators say he head butted his wife and broke her nose on July 21st.
And then, on July 22nd, they say he punched her and threw a shoe at her 17-
month-old child. Now, she fled the state the very next day. We will keep
following this story for you.

Now, back to politics, we have some breaking news from Kansas tonight.
The Supreme Court there just ruled against Republican attempts to keep a
Democrat on the ballot. We`ll explain why Kansas Republicans are
concerned. That`s next.


MELBER: Some breaking news in the fight for control of the U.S.
Senate now. Now, just before the end of the business day today, the Kansas
Supreme Court threw out a Republican attempt to protect Republican Senator
Pat Roberts. The Kansas Secretary of State Chris Kobach had been resisting
a pretty standard request by a Democratic candidate to remove his name from
the November ballot.

Now today, the court rejected that GOP maneuver as simply against the
law. The court found Democrat Chad Taylor`s withdraw from the race did
come fly with the relevant law. Now, Democrats are rooting for the
independent candidate to beat Roberts in what would now be a two-way race.
And the court ruled that the Republican secretary of state has no
discretion to refuse to remove Taylor`s name from the ballots.

Now, in this kind of case, no discretion means the secretary of state
simply exceeded his authority. So, either he didn`t understand the rules
or he was so focused on trying to override the Democratic candidate`s
withdrawal that he was willing to try just about anything.

Now, that`s the law. Politics here, though, are pretty interesting
here, too. You`ve got to figure that Republicans are desperate when
they`re taking these measures in a state that backed Romney by 60 points
and which went red by 70 points the last time it had a federal Senate
election. And yesterday many think it`s exactly that streak which may be
the problem for Kansas. Voters got a pretty full blown taste of far right,
one party rule and some seem to be having second thoughts.

Joining me now is "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC analyst, E.J.
Dionne. Also joining me, Kansas statehouse bureau chief for "The Topeka
Capital Journal", Tim Carpenter.

Good evening to you both.


MELBER: Doing well.

Tim, walk us through exactly what happens here with the politics,
because you have a new statement out from Pat Roberts campaign lamenting
the state of affairs like he`s concerned about the Democrat. What he seems
to really be concerned about is going up against an independent in Greg

time that a Republican senator has decided to defend Democrats in the
electoral process.

You know, the story lines in this Senate race extend like an octopus
that keeps sprouting arms. You`ve got to remember, this is Kansas. This
is the place where Republicans typically win everything. And this election
season in 2014 is very interesting.

MELBER: Yes, I want to put up on the screen, just a quick snapshot
what a two-person race looks like. Orman with 41 percent to Roberts 34
percent. That is the very simple flow that you here that tells you why
Roberts is so concerned about going new a head to head.

E.J., in theory, this could determine who controls the Senate.

DIONNE: It`s true. And actually, all of the models that people are
playing have shown the battle for the Senate tightening. Democrats are
running a little better in some places than they were before. So, it`s not
at all impossible that it comes down to Kansas. We don`t know which party
Greg Orman, the independent would caucus with. And I am absolutely sure
he`s not going to tell the voters of Kansas the answer to that question.
I`m pretty sure until after the election. And so, yes, Kansas is a big

And as Tim suggested, Kansas is really a central battleground this
year in American politics because you not only have a Senate race, but you
also have Governor Sam Brownback in a lot of trouble in his race for
governor. And Chris Kobach himself, the secretary of state, is in a very
hard race.

So I think a lot of us on election night are going to be watching

MELBER: Yes, and you talk about why Brownback is in trouble and how
that`s hurting Republicans in general. You can just take up some of what
he`s done. He cut the top income tax rate by 25 percent. That`s a Tea
Party dream there.

State revenue in the most recent fiscal year now $300 million short of
expectations. Reserve funds can be less than $800 million. He did
increase total punitive spending toward education, which is nice. But
again, they can`t pay for it, leaving a $1.3 billion hole in their budget,
which has led both Moody`s and S&P to downgrade Kansas.

Tim, how much is that on everyone`s mind as they decide whether they
want to stay GOP?

CARPENTER: Ii think you`re talking about the pivot point in the
governor`s race. The supply side economic program that Governor Brownback
implemented cut taxes and now, there`s a fear among the Democrat nominee
Davis that the revenue is not going to be there for basic government

So, the big fear is the public school system is going to suffer more
cuts as they did during the recession, if there`s not enough money to pay
the bills.

MELBER: Yes. And, E.J., doesn`t that go to the peculiar politics of
this time. I mean, those of us in the news obviously following everything
around the world. We`ve been covering terrible activities of ISIS and what
a tough question it is there, one that as Rachel was pointing out, one that
Congress seems to be ducking. And exactly what we should do over there,
and yet for people who follow politics, E.J., in a lot of these states, it
may still come down to the economy and jobs.

DIONNE: Right.

I think it almost comes down to the economy and jobs. And, you know,
Joe Scarborough made an interesting point. The tax revolt began all the
way back in 1978 with Prop 13 in California. And if Brownback were to lose
this election, he may be the first Republican to lose a race because he`s
cut taxes too much. I think that`s an extraordinary thing.

And I think that -- you now, we`ve talked about the Tea Party
rebellions since 2010. If Sam Brownback loses in the state that happens to
the home of Koch industries, this would be a very major setback for Tea
Party-style politics.

MELBER: I think that`s true, because look, people forget this, but
the big edge the Tea Party has had in Washington is they take credit for
obstruction, which makes a lot of their base happy. They`re governing
strategy has not been tested. The entire period of the national Tea Party,
of course, has been during the presidency of Barack Obama.

Tim, I also want to zero in on the anti-incumbency thing here, which I
think why Greg Orman as an independent has an extra edge. Take a look, as
you know the blowback that Roberts has had just over residency. Asked the
Kansas voters, do you think Pat Roberts considers his home to be Kansas or
Washington? And you have a majority saying he believes his real home is
Washington, D.C.

That`s not an easy re-election position, is it?

CARPENTER: No. And it`s an interesting predicament, because I think
Senator Roberts would say he`s a Kansan through and through. But the Tea
Party insurgent primary opponent really took Roberts to task for living --
for referring to his home in Virginia as his home. And so, that residency
issue really irritates voters. They don`t want you to go to Washington and
just be a big shot and forget about your friends back in Kansas.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Tim, is it a ploy, though, or does it reflect a
concern about his policies at the end of the day?

CARPENTER: I think people have less concerns about policies. I have
to believe that anti-incumbency is a big part of what`s happening in Kansas
with Roberts. And they`re looking at Senator Roberts, a veteran who`s been
there for decades.

They saw a primary opponent who was young and robust and now, they
have independent Orman, the candidate, who`s young and 45 and full of
energy and wants to fix Washington. And they just wonder if the Roberts
story has just gone on too long.

MELBER: Right. Well, that`s a story that continues tomorrow as these
guys give themselves a big congressional vacation and can go home and
actually talk to some voters.

Tim Carpenter and E.J. Dionne, thanks so much for joining me tonight.

DIONNE: Great to be with you.

CARPENTER: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, we have a live report from Scotland on the vote
that could make history.


MELBER: Now with a remarkable 97 percent of eligible voters
registered, the Scottish people went to the polls in record numbers today
to answer just one question -- should Scotland be an independent country?

Now, here are some very preliminary results so far. We have 42
percent saying yes, 58 percent saying no. That`s only 4 of 32 councils, as
they`re called, having reported. Their vote totals more than 4 million
people registered. And turn out was very high, estimates from 70 to 90

Now, they`ve been counting vote since 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Results are
rolling in and we`re going to keep you posted throughout the night.

Now, how did Scotland reach the potential breaking point here with
Great Britain? Some part of it was anger over the political status quo and
in particular austerity policies of British Prime Minister David Cameron`s
conservative government. The White House and Wall Street are closely
watching this vote because of a potentially huge impact a yes vote could
have on foreign policy and global economy and stability in the region.

President Obama tweeting today from the official White House account
there on what was the eve of the vote, quote, "The U.K. is an extraordinary
partner for America and a force for good in an unstable world. I hope it
remains strong, robust and united. Signed, B.O."

Now, joining me now from the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, Alastair
Jamieson, NBC News digital journalist, and Richard Wolffe, executive
director of, among other things.

Good day to you both.

Good evening, Alastair. What are you hearing so far?


That`s right. This is where all the results from the various counts
across Scotland are being fed in to his result center here in Edinburgh.
We`ve only have four so far. And they`re both, small results. Two of them
are exactly as expected, strong no votes up in (INAUDIBLE). Two others,
the remote western isles (INAUDIBLE) have both voted no, but by a narrow
margin, but enough of a margin to suggest that we`re looking as if the no
campaign may just have won this vote by slenderest of margins. So the
independence vote, not quite enough. But these are such early votes. And
they`re really important results, the ones that matter for the big cities
of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Those results aren`t expected for another two to
three hours, possibly even later than that. And those are the ones that
really are going to decide the outcome of this. And neither side is yet
quite willing to either declare victory or to concede defeat.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes. If the no vote does ultimately win,
that would reflect something of a change recently because there was a lot
of concern this was much tighter than people thought. No greater expert on
the region than Rupert Murdoch talking today about this and the larger
themes, frustration with the establishment. Take a listen to that and let
me get your response. Here it is.


RUPERT MURDOCH, BUSINESS MAGNET: I think this goes beyond Scotland.
I think there`s a great sort of anti-establishment ground swell, which is
seen in this vote. Scotland is seeing it here, Britain and the anti-
European party which one single issue which is too good in Europe. You
could take the United States and go across middle America. What do they
think of Washington and Wall Street for that matter? You know, people are
really looking for change.


MELBER: Alastair, does that ring true?

JAMIESON: Yes, I think he`s right. Although, of course, bear in mind
as a media mogul, obviously, he`s very much the voice of the establishment
himself. And -- but it shows you how close things were this week that
Murdoch actually came to Scotland and was actually hanging out in bars in
Glasgow, trying to gauge opinion. He famously and his British papers like
to be on the winning side of British election campaigns. And we thought
that maybe his titles in Britain and Scotland might endorse one side or the
other. But actually that hasn`t happened, and that`s really a good
indicator of how close things were that he wasn`t willing to place his bets
in either camp.

But yes, he doesn`t like the no campaign, even if they win a victory,
there`s a matter of huge constitutional significance. If large parts of
Scotland are, as we seem to be seeing are willing to go independent from
the United Kingdom, that is a huge blow. And for British prime minister
David Cameron and also sends a very strong message that there will be some
constitutional shake-up. Certainly some more powers for Scotland and
possibly even a move towards a sort of federal type system with more
developed pound-for-pounders in England, Wales, northern island as well.
So, certainly this issue is not going to wait tonight even if there is a no

MELBER: So -- yes. Richard, extending that analysis, what do you
think that blow would mean to the Cameron government and potentially any
impacts to the United States and our foreign policy.

that Rupert Murdoch is talking about being anti-establishment. This has
been a theme for him throughout. When he talks about anti-establishment
(ph) it for the Scots, they`re feeling anti-conservative. A conservative
government in London that Rupert Murdoch himself supported. So they`re
rejecting conservatives, as they have actually since the days of Margaret
Thatcher. That`s been a big driving force for the Scots.

The danger of this for the whole of British politics and European
politics was that splitting apart the United Kingdom. It would encourage
English nationalist, and we`re going to see that, whatever the result
tomorrow, in British time for David Cameron. That kind of nationalism will
split apart the European union. This administration with President Obama
and previous administration have strongly supported the European union.
That project, they see it as part of stability in Europe, a stronger
trading partner and certainly stronger for NATO and security at a time, of
course, when Russia is posing threats and you got new threats coming out of
the Middle East.

So a breakup of the United Kingdom, a potential breakup of the
European union, very trouble for people looking for stability at least in
Europe and in a very unstable world.

MELBER: And you mentioned Cameron, he went to Scotland. Many people
said he was a little late to taking this seriously. Take a listen to him
here on September 10th.


because it is a ballot, I think people can feel it`s a bit like a general
election. That you make a decision and five years later, you can make
another decision. If you`re fed up with the borings, give them a kick and
then maybe we`ll think again. This is totally different.


MELBER: Isn`t it a little off kilter, though, for him to suggest the
folks voting here don`t get how momentous a decision this would be?

WOLFFE: Yes, and his problem is he`s been weakened. Even if he wins
and the no vote actually takes the day, his authority has been undermined.
He`s up for reelection himself, very close election. He`s got threats from
the left, from the labor party, which is the slightly ahead in the polls.
He has got threat from the right, from these English nationalist who want
to split from the European union. He has got his awkward situation in
Scotland. And with that number of challenges, and it is bad for President
Obama not having Congress, imagine not having control of your owned
politics, of having a breakaway country as part of your owned -- it`s not
his kingdom, but his country in the United Kingdom. So it`s a very
challenging thing for his authority. It`s not clear that he can actually
navigate the politic himself.

MELBER: All right, Richard Wolffe and Alastair Jamieson, thank you
very much both for the special coverage tonight.

And coming up, the latest on the investigation into Joan Rivers`

And later, the Senate votes yes on arming the Syrian rebels. Why the
CIA doesn`t like the plan and what you need to know. That`s all coming up
as well.


MELBER: A JetBlue plane headed from Long Beach, California to Austin,
Texas had to turn around after a pretty serious problem with an engine.
Flight 1416 took off about 9:15 a.m. pacific time. You can see here, it
got just above 9,000 feet when the pilot got a warning that an engine
overheated. Passengers had to put on oxygen masks as the cabin filled with
smoke. People on board say the pilot told them to brace themselves as the
air bus a-320 approached the runway. The plane landed, however, and all
142 passengers and five crew members got off. A few people were treated
for minor injuries.

Now coming up next, new reports about the doctor operating on Joan
Rivers just before she was rushed to the emergency room.


MELBER: Legendary comedian Joan Rivers died two weeks ago. The 81-
year-old went into cardiac arrest during a procedure we know at a New York
clinic. Now, however, TMZ is alleging that Rivers` ear, nose and throat
specialist, Dr. Gwen Corvin was one of the doctors in that operating room
with Rivers when she stopped breathing. Now, it`s important to note right
here that NBC News has not been able to yet verify this information. There
is an attempt to reach her doctor for a comment but that so far has been

(INAUDIBLE) organizations are reaching out to Dr. Corvin which she has
been hounded by paparazzi in New York City. Now, with all this intense
speculation circling her name, the doctor has remained silent and has not
acknowledged the allegations or, we should be clear, disputed it. Dr.
Corvin has a long list of high priority clients including people like Lady
Gaga, Hugh Jackman, and John Meyer. She appeared in Celine Dion`s 2010
documentary performing a procedure on the singer`s vocal cords.


lot of medical stuff that contributed to the tension.


MELBER: Now, the new TMZ account is notable because just last week,
"The New York Times" reported that there was an ENT specialist at the
clinic who was not authorized to practice medicine there. Now, that is the
specialist, of course, that TMZ says is Dr. Corvin. The Times reported
that specialist quote "examined Ms. Rivers` voice box twice, once before,
once after the gastroenterologist performed an upper endoscopy procedure
that uses -- basically use a tiny camera to look down her throat into the
digestive system. Now, at the end of that procedure, doctors realized Ms.
Rivers` oxygen level was crashing," end quote.

Joan Rivers died eight days later at Mount Sinai hospital. Now, the
gastroenterologist who performed the procedure was the clinic`s medical
director. He has since stepped down.

And joining me now to explain a little more is senior editor of
"Variety," Ramin Setoodeh . How do you do?


MELBER: Let`s start here with what we`re learning. Is this the ENT
doctor allegedly here that was in the room? What do you think, basically,
of these reports and what do we know about her.

SETOODEH: It a very confusing -- just to start, let me just say, this
is a very confusing account of what actually happened. We don`t know what
happened. We have anonymous sources talking about what happened in that
room, but we don`t know for a fact what happened.

But what the two questions that people have are one, did the ENT
doctor who would believed to be Doctor Corvin, but we don`t. Did she take
a selfie with Joan Rivers while Joan Rivers was on the operating table.
And two, the question we have is did the ENT doctor, did she do an
unauthorized biopsy on Joan Rivers` vocal cords which is believe to be one
of the reasons she may have stopped breathing. And the answers to these
two questions, I think, will become clear as investigations proceed in this
case. But we don`t know right now what exactly happened in the room.

MELBER: And as you`ve been following this story, do you have any
sense of how someone would even get in the room without authorization?

SETOODEH: That shouldn`t have happened. I think that`s one of the
reasons why the other doctor resigned from his position at the head of the
clinic. But that should not have happened.

MELBER: Let me read a statement from Melissa Rivers here who said she
wants to thank everyone for the beautiful cards and flowers conveying
heartfelt messages and condolences which continue to arrive around the
world and through social media. She said my mother would have been
overwhelmed by the scope and depth of love that people have expressed for

Obviously heartfelt sentiment from the family. This is a person, of
course, who`s touched so many people`s lives. But the celebrity aspect is
also these swirling questions. Do you read anything into the fact that the
family here isn`t exactly in their public statement complaining about
anything yet?

SETOODEH: I don`t think that I`m reading anything into that, because,
you know, maybe they don`t know. Maybe they`re waiting to see what the --
because there is going to be an investigation from the New York department
of health into this case. And I think maybe they`re waiting to see what
the investigation reveals.

MELBER: The other thing, again, in fairness here, TMZ also reports
quote "several patients of Dr. Corvin contacted us to tell about her
unblemished record. How she`s the go-to ENT in New York." Want to be fair
about that. And yet, as we said, we will update and correct accordingly,
but as of this time, she hasn`t come out and disputed any of this yet. It
wouldn`t be hard to give at least a general denial if that`s warranted.

SETOODEH: And cameras were following her today and she didn`t
comment. So she did have the chance to comment but she hasn`t commented on
what happened in that room.

MELBER: So where does this go from here briefly?

SETOODEH: So, there is going to be a series of investigations, and
we`re going to see what officials find in those investigations. They`re
going to be conducting interviews with both doctors to see exactly what

MELBER: Right. And certainly a lot of attention on that. So there
should be update accordingly.

Ramin Setoodeh, thank you for being here joining me.

Coming up, the Senate authorizes arming those Syrian rebels.


MELBER: For the last several years, viewers of this program, viewers
like you, have done their part to help children in Malawi achieving better
education through the KIND fund. That`s Kids In Need of Desks. So far,
you have helped UNICEF raised over $7 million. A number that grows higher
every year and around the world.

Tonight, however, we know that more than one billion people are still
living in extreme poverty. ON September 27th, the global citizen festival
is going to be held in New York central park in it is designed to help
raise awareness and join the fight to end extreme poverty by 2030. The
concert has performances from the Roots, No Doubt, Carrie Underwood, and of
course, Jay-Z as well as some other guests.

The global poverty project is giving out 50,000 free tickets, sort of
free, there for people who take action to improve the lives of other
impoverish individuals. You can go to to learn more about the
whole effort. And you are not in the New York area on September 27th, as
well as so you probably won`t be, you can also watch the concert live right
here on MSNBC. And it begins at 3:00 p.m. eastern with hosting by Chris
Hayes, Alex Wagner and Ronin Farrow.

Now up next, what the CIA thinks about the new American strategy
against ISIS.



strongest as a nation, when the president and Congress work together. And
I want to thank leaders in Congress for the speed and seriousness with
which they approached this urgent issue in keeping with the bipartisanship
that is the hallmark of American foreign policy at its best.


MELBER: That was President Obama tonight, just shortly after the
senate follow the House`s lead in passing amendment to arm and train Syrian
rebels in the fight against ISIS. The amendment easily won senate approval
to vote 78-22, one independent, nine Democrats and 12 Republicans including
Senator Rand Paul voted no.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Intervention with both choices are bad
is a mistake. Intervention with both sides are evil is a mistake.
Intervention that destabilizes the Middle East is a mistake. Yes, we must
now defend ourselves from these barbarous jihadists. But let`s not
compound the problem by arming feckless rebels in Syria who seem to be
merely a pit stop whoever is going to really on their way to ISIS.

America should only go to war to win. We shouldn`t go to war sort of
meandering our way through a spending bill.


MELBER: Some pretty fair and important criticisms there. Senator
John McCain has a response.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I see the critics come here on the
floor of the senate and talk about why everything is wrong, why nobody will
fight, why we can`t armed the right people? Well, what`s their solution?


MELBER: And tonight, as mentioned, President Obama reiterated his
strategy will not, not include sending more American troops in to combat.


OBAMA: The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and
will not have a combat mission. Their mission is to advise and assist our
partners on the ground. As I told our troops yesterday, we can join with
allies and partners to destroy ISIL without American troops fighting
another ground war.


MELBER: Joining me now, "the Huffington Post" Ryan Grim. Good

Good evening.

MELBER: I want to get to your CIA reporting in a second. But first,
obviously the big news here with the Senate vote. I have very mixed
feelings on the one hand. We`ve seen the House and the Senate dig into
these issues and hearings and holding these votes which provide something
to the American public on the way to an escalation in Iraq ad quite clearly

On the other hand, they`re giving themselves a huge vacation and they
didn`t get to the real question which is do you want to authorize a wider
campaign beyond just this small piece about the rebels.

GRIM: Right. And what`s so fascinating about this vote is if the
question on the House or the Senate floor would have been, do you believe
that this strategy in Syria has a chance of success, it would have
overwhelmingly lost. You know, both parties -- you know, you might have
gotten two dozen yes votes over in the House of Representatives and maybe
four or five people in the Senate, like McCain and a few others would say
yes. This has a decency (ph).

Everyone else across the board pretty much thinks that this is not
going to work. But that wasn`t the question on the floor. The question
was, are you going to authorize the president to give this a shot. And
they basically said sure, why not. Voted for it. Left town and then
they`re going to come back after the elections and discuss a sort of quasi
declaration of war, maybe.

MELBER: Right. Which is just fundamentally unserious, not surprised,
from this Congress. And it allows them politically, of course, to check a
box and say yes, I did something a little bit hawkish, but they can still
run back around and obviously criticize everything that comes out of this
strategy, whatever it may be. Looking at some of the senators who did vote
against it interestingly, you had Elizabeth Warren, you had Senator Brown
and Gillibrand, Leahy, who`s got tenure and old enough to do, I guess, what
he wants. Senator Chris Murphy on foreign relations. Looking at leading
Republicans who voted no, we showed Senator Rand Paul there, Cruz as well.
Lee, a tea party person, and interestingly, Pat Roberts who we`ve been
covering all night tonight, heading back for what a is a difficult Senate
race. And yet, I think it is fair to say, Ryan, people do not know what
the politics are on this long term.

GRIM: Right. And I think the Pat Roberts vote to me is the most
significant one and the most impressive in a kind of symbolic way. This is
a Republican running in Kansas in a tough reelection fight. And he made
the political calculation that a no vote on war was what was going to help
him win reelection in Kansas. And I think that tells you, like you were
saying, this is a lot more muddied than it used to be.

You know, in 20 04 when Hillary Clinton figured I`ll check this box
and move forward with my career for 2002, you know, there was much simpler
then. But what has happened since then has kind of unwound that consensus
that the politics always favor a yes vote on war.

Even in the short term here, you know, Pat Roberts has said the short
term politics favor a no vote. A lot of the other candidates, Kirsten
Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and some others clearly
belief that the long-term politics might also favor a no vote.

And a lot of them probably took the fact that they don`t believe this
will work and then decided well, politically why would I get behind it.
Elizabeth Warren said so much in her statement that the classified
briefings that she received convinced her this actually would not work.

MELBER: Right. You are talking about classified briefings. A big
question in the run-up to the Iraq war was, was the policy leading the
intelligence. Because they decided they wanted to go in. Was everything
going to sound, you know, presented and sound worse. And here you have
that again. You writing about the way the CIA and other entities within
the bureaucracy within their role of providing information and analysis,
when done right and honestly are saying hey, this might not work.

GRIM: Right. And to reporters, such as myself, they`re saying it
more explicitly. Although I wasn`t in the classified briefings, but
they`re expressing varying levels of ambivalence in these meetings. And
they`re quite credible in this sense. They have been working with,
training and equipping and arming these rebels for the last couple of years
so they know who, you know, who these folks are.

And if they`re telling you look, we can`t guarantee that these weapons
aren`t going to wind up with ISIS. We`re not going to give them extremely
heavy weapons which Ben Rhodes told us On the Record, because you know,
they are worried they might wind up in the hands of more extreme
insurgence. You know, if that`s what you`re hearing from the CIA, that`s
the best case scenario, then people like Elizabeth Warren say well then,
why are we doing this again?

MELBER: Yes. Then call home.

Ryan Grim, you get tonight`s "Last Word." Thank you for your time.

I want to turn now to some breaking news. We have, of course, been
following the Scottish independence vote. And right now, 70-3 (ph)
councils reporting, the yes campaign for Scottish independence has won its
first victory. But to be clear, the no votes still leads 51-49.

I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell. You can always reach me
at Ari@MSNBC.COM. Comments, questions, whatever you want. And you can
find me tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. eastern on "the Cycle" if you are watching TV
during the day.

Thanks for watching the "Last Word."


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