tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC December 20, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm PST
once trump is inaugurated. anybody think this is going to stop? anybody? that does it for us tonight. we'll see you again tomorrow. now it's time for the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. >> i want to report no one raised their hand in the studio here. >> i can see everybody watching at home, everybody is like this. >> not one hand went up in this studio, not one. thank you, rachel. well, there has been another historic first for the trump transition team. a meeting with the leader of an austrian group that was founded by the nazis. the leader of the austrian far right freedom party visited general flynn a few weeks ago inside trump tower. >> the party was founded in the 1950s by literal nazis. >> donald trump is very comfortable with the global far right. he's comfortable with putin. >> good for him. the voters spoke and he won fair and red square. now -- >> there's into question the
russians were messing around our election. >> and still, no true acknowledgement from the incoming administration of putin's role. >> it's very disturbing because the evidence is quite overwhelming. > she put the secretary of state up for sale. favors and access where is granted to those who wrote checks. >> now, he's the one facing questions about access to him and his family. >> donald trump's sons launched a texas non-profit to sell access to their father on get this the day after the inauguration. >> the corrupt pay for play scheme. >> if irony still has meaning, that was it. austria's freedom party was founded in the 1950s by nazis. "the new york times" reports recently the leader of the party was welcomed to trump tower where he met with michael flynn, donald trump's choice for national security advisor. the transition team has refused to comment in any way on that meeting.
but the leader of the freedom party wrote in a facebook post internationally circulate freedom party continues to gain in influence. certainly seems to have some influence at trump tower. the times reported that the freedom party has a cooperation agreement with russia's ruling political party. that means michael flynn seems to be on a collision course with general joseph dunford, is the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff who has a fixed term of office that will leave him in that role for at least it the first year of the trump administration. here's what, general dunford said about russia in senate testimony. >> what would you consider the greatest threat to our national security? >> my assessment today, senator, is that russia presents the greatest threat to our national security. if you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential it will threat to the united states, i would have to point to russia. their behavior is nothing short of alarming. >> today is the obama administration announced new sanctions on russian individuals and companies that it says are
connected to russia's incursions into ukraine. joining us david frum senior editor at the atlantic, the president of plow shares fund, and michael mcfaul, former u.s. ambassador to russia and msnbc contributor. ambassador mcfaul, your reaction to this meeting at trump tower. >> inappropriate. of course. what more is to be said? it's inappropriate in so many different levels but the main level of course, is that it is this is right wing party that has alliances with other parties like it throughout europe. you remember the communist international? i call it the il liberal international. and they all have, as you just reported quite accurately, very close ties to president putin. whatever mr. flynn's private ideological views when he was a civilian an independent person, that's one thing. but now that he is representing the transition, he has to deal with governments and he has to
start treating our allies and our friends around the world as if they are our allies and friends. including the government of austria. >> joe, is there any explanation for in that you can think of and that trump campaign has offered no explanation at all, just not comment at all. what could be the best case scenario for a meeting like this? >> that you want to hear all points of views even really wacky neo-nazi points of views. but that is very flimsy justification. remember, this is not the leader of a governing party. this is the leader of an opposition party. as you say, a party that was founded by a nazi, a former ss officer in 1956, a party that has just signed an agreement of cooperation with russia. so get this, is the head of an austrian political party has signed an agreement with a foreign leader, russia, to cooperate with them to have
regular meetings. we used to call these kinds of people during world war ii quiz lings named after the politics quiz ling who cooperated with the nazis in the occupation of his own country. we are now seeing a new network of giz lings, these far right party who are allying with putin, with russia in a common cause against their own governments and now the soon to be national security advisor, the president of the united states, has legitimized these people, has welcomed them into trump tower. the white house in waiting and blessed them and has not gone unnoticed. the far right, the alt-right as we call them here, are crowing about this, they're talking about a new axis of nationalism that spans north america and europe. this is a deeply troubling development. >> let's liston what senator chris murphy said about this. >> this is an incredibly
disturbing meeting although it's not really surprising. flynn is a very dangerous character inside the white house. this is someone who regularly trades in conspiracy theorys and who is going to be sometimes the first and last person that president trump sees when he gets up and leaves the oval office at night. and it also speaks to there much broader effort that's happening to link far right parties around the world. >> david frum, your reaction? >> well, you asked the question what's the case for it. here's the case that in any bureaucracy, you have in any foreign policy bureaucracy, have you people who are at some distance from the center of the organization who keep in touch with all kinds of undesirable people all over the planet. the austrian freedom party may well come to power. you need someone who knows what's going on there. just as you have conversations with hamas and other bad actors all over the planet. you also make sure in a well structured foreign policy operation those people don't come too close to the center
partly because it's a reward, partly because you want to handle delicate situations with kid gloves. the problem is not that people in the trump campaign talk to bad actors. people in every campaign vin proxies who talk to bad actors all over the planet. is the problem is there does seem to be as the ambassador and joseph said, is the trump campaign seems to be of like mind with russian foreign policy. what we are seeing here is a very systemic russian attack attempt to smash nato and the eu to pieces. russia has a gdp about the size of italy. on its own it is not a very powerful actor. it can only be powerful by setting the parts of the democratic world at each other's throats. there are parties inside it the eu willing to do that, not because they're nazis but because they have various kinds of sinister agendas that are more modern than naziism and the trump campaign seems to either
share those are not understand the stakes. >> ambassadors mcfaul, it leaves the question of what powers exist outside of the trump administration to counter balance this? what kind of kong greggs did oversight or congressional influence can be brought to bear in this situation? >> well, i think all of the checks and balances of our system need to be at play and by the way, i think they will be. i have confidence in that. remember, even the executive branch not everybody changes. i remember my first day working at the white house, i walked in and met my new staff and every single person the previous day had worked for george w. bush. those people will be there. our diplomats will be there that understand this party. at the pentagon, there are lots of people including, as you just pointed out general dunford that has a very sober view of what russia is doing.
and the u.s. congress i think needs to play a very important role in interrogating the and examining every foreign policy move including in the transition. and finally, just like what we're doing right here, i think it's a very important time to educate the american people and by the way, maybe educate even the trump people who may not understand the history of this party who may not understand the linkages back to united russia, the party in moscow. by the way, the gentleman who signed that agreement from moscow is on our sanctions list. and through that process at least hope that we don't do as a country as the administration doesn't do radically stupid things. >> joe, it seems like michael flynn at this point is on his own. he's not going to get support from the joint chiefs or for anything that's already in place institutionally, and one wonder is at some point does donald trump going to be notice that no one agrees with michael flynn?
>> well, he certainly represents one faction inside the incoming trump administration, the sort of islam ma phobic conspiracy minded faction. there are others liking this, frankly, the representative pompeo is named to be the director of the cia shares some of these views. that's not the views of general mattis, possibly secretary of defense, or of rex tillerson, possibly the secretary of state. so you will see this struggle going in. and look, nobody's against improving relations with russia. the general is right. russia represents the greatest threat, the existential threat to the united states. they have 1,000 nuclear warheads ready to launch at the united states in a moment's notice. we do too which is one reason we should take these weapons off of hair trigger alert right now. so you have to improve relations with russia with. the question is what's the deal, what's the balance? david points out in an excellent
article in the atlantic that some people are now afraid that the trump team is giving away the u.s. advantage is agreeing to things to do with russia without getting anything in return, is already showing all their cards. that's the danger. yes improve relations with russia, but get something in return for it. >> david, give us an example of how the u.s. should and the trump administration should play those cards. >> look, remember, russia is poor. russia is weak. russia is undersanctions. the trump administration is unpredictable and scary. it should look scarier. you do not make up your mind erl toil have a bad relationship with china. the old nixon/kissinger understanding was the those three great powers the united states is the one with the most freedom of action. act like it. as joe said, trump is has already insulted the chinese
meaning he has reduced his own freedom of action. the question is, is that ideological or do the russians have something on him? and i think one of the things is a way we talk about this f as if donald trump doesn't understand and if only he understood what his best interests really were. you know, a lot of things to criticize about donald trump but not knowing what's in his best interests hassell dom been one of them. when you see him acting a certain way, you have to assume he's got a reason to do it, and if the reason looks dark, that doesn't mean it's not true. >> ambassador mcfaul, your reaction to that, the likelihood or the possibility that the russians through various means would as david put it have something on donald trump. >> i can't -- i mean, it's a hypothesis that could be true. i don't know that to be a fact. but i do want to buildthon conversation about means versus ends. and let me -- i've negotiated with the russians for several
years when i was in the administration. and like joe, we weren't against good relations. but we had objectives we wanted to get done. foreign policy objectives that we thought were good for the american people. we got a s.t.a.r.t. treaty done, not 1,000 but 1550 weapons pointed at each other, we got sanctions on iran, a new distribution route to afghanistan, we got russia into the wto. the means was engagement with then president. trump has it backwards. he's made the objective of his foreign policy at least so far is getting along with russia. and putin's got a really clear strategy for an cleaning that. if you endorse what i do in syria, i'll let us have a nice party in the kremlin. if you lift sanctions, i'll say we get along better. if you endorse our annexation of crimea, we'll approve your approval ratings here in russia.
he's got it exactly backwards. so far, i don't know what he seeks in terms of the great deals that he's promised to do with russia. that comes first and then the means for achieving them either through engagement or pressure comes second. >> joe, david frum and michael mcfaul, appreciate it. >> thank you. >> thanks. coming up, the extraordinary story of a woman whose sentence, prison sentence was commuted by president clinton. and who was then recently pardoned bpresent obama. she is now a lawyer. and she will join us later in the program. for lower back pain sufferers the search for relief often leads... here, or here. today there's a new option. introducing drug-free aleve direct therapy. a tens device with high intensity power that uses technology once only available in doctors' offices. its wireless remote let's you control the intensity.
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there's been a massive explosion at a fireworks market just outside of mexico city at the san pablito market. a mexican official tells the "associated press" at least 27 people have been killed and dozens are hurt. the market was crowded with shoppers buying fireworks for the holidays. it's not clear exactly what caused that explosion at that the fireworks market. similar explosions have happened there in the past. in past years at that market. we'll be right back.
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this program because she's in the business of spouting mostly nonsensical trumpisms. peppered with lies. you never learn anything by listening to kellyanne conway but she said something today to "the new york times" that offers a beginning point to the discussion of how democrats in congress should approach the trump presidency. she told the "times" the professional political left is attempting to foment a permanent opposition that is corrosive to our constitutional democracy and ignores what just happened in this election. now there's kellyanne conway saying that congressional opposition to a president is corrosive to our constitutional democracy. she is pretending that if the democrats and con congress opposed donald trump on everything he tries to do, the that will be the very first time in history that happened. she is pretending the republicans did not do that every day for eight years with president obama and she's pretending that the democrats' leader in the senate did not say this.
>> we're not going to work with him for the sake of working with him. we're not going to oppose him just because he says something, it's something that trump sponsors. on certain issues, candidate trump voiced very progressive and populist opinions, for instance, getting rid of the carried interest loophole, changing our trade laws dramatically, a large infrastructure bill, cleaning up the swamp in washington. these are things that democrats have always stood for and frankly, republicans have always been against. so we're going to challenge president trump to work with us on those issues where we canning. >> joining us now david corn, the washington bureau chief for mother jones and political analyst. also political analyst and the former director of progressive media for the clinton campaign. zerlina, here's this question. did the democrats take the mitch mcconnell approach and oppose every single thing that donald
trump tries to do or do they as chuck consumer says look for the spots where they can find something that they agree with donald trump on and try to get a legislative agreement on that. >> i think instead of looking for the spots where they should find agreement, they should look for the critical areas in which they can make some headway in terms of the real questions in terms of his business interests and the conflicts with foreign governments, but also some of the transparency issues we know are going to be a reality under the trump administration and i really think that democrats need to stop acting like there is business as usual. this is not business as usual. this is an unprecedented moment in our democracy and it's very important for the democrats to hold strong and fight like hell. this is different than mitch mcconnell because president obama was a democratically elected president where there was nos corruption implied and no confirmation that there was a foreign government hacking in our election. and so that's something that distinguishes this moment from
when president obama was elected in 2008. >> david corn, what are you hearing from democrats about the position that is chuck schumer just announced which is we will try to find areas to work with him, president trump where we can and then oppose him where we disagree with him, as opposed to the mcconnell republican style just oppose him every day from the start, don't give an inch. >> i think democratses are split a little bit on there. i would flip the question. will democrats perhaps work with trump but where might trump work with democrats. i agree with zerlina the context here should be that trump is illegitimate. i'm not talking about because he won the electoral college or he lost the popular vote but as a leader, he's not serious. he's not responsible. you talk about corrosive effects, he pushes the birther notion for years. so he needs to dom democrats to the rest of the country and show he's not a bully bigot and an arrogant no nothing. so if he wants to do an infrastructure bill, i think
democrats should look at it, but decide if it's going to help americans or not. and that way be more responsible than what happened in the first year or so of the obama administration when obama did reach out to republicans on the stimulus bill, on health care and said listen, i'm taking some of your ideas even before we start to negotiate and putting them in as a sign of good faith. so i think really the democrats should be stand offish, not trust a sing is thing he says or promises. but take a look at what he puts on the table but ultimately, i don't think it's going to be donald trump driving the train. it may be ryan or mcconnell, maybe pence. it's going to be very difficult for democrats to be able to be have an honest assessment of what the donald trump intends to do. >> i want to get to something
bill o'reilly said tonight. here we are the date after the electoral college met and bill o'reilly weighing in on the electoral college. he clearly has no idea how the electoral college was initially designed of course, no one was allowed to vote directly for the president because the founding fathers isn't believe that voters off the street were smart enough to do and the electoral college was supposed to be a smarter group of people learned men who could make that decision. let's listen to now bill o'reilly's entry into the electoral college debate. >> newspapers like "the new york times" and "the l.a. times"" is editorialized to get rid of the electoral college. they well know neutralizing the largely white rural areas in the midwest and south will assure liberal politicians get power and keep it. talking points believes this is all about race.
the left sees white privilege in america as an oppress sib force that must be done away with. therefore, white working class voters must can marginalized. what better way to do that than center the voting power in the strews. left wants power taken away from the white establishment, they want a change in the way america is run. taking voting power away from the white precincts is the quickest way to do that. >> so the electoral college does not but redistribute an imbalanced voting power geographically and makes a vote in wyoming worth 20 times more than a vote in california. it just makes one person one vote eight parody. it's just a joke. zerlina is, o'reilly sees this in nothing but racial terms. >> well, what's interesting is that in the beginning of his rant, i kind of agreed with him because it is about race because if you look at the history of why the electoral college was
created it was in part, yes to make it more fair but it was to make it more fair for southern slave-holding folks who lived down in the confederate states. so i think the problem that we have here is over family sizing is the importance of the white working class voter and doing that at the expense of other working class voters black and latina voters. we never talk about black working class voters or latina working class voters. i think democrats and certainly the country at large needs to understand who is working and that it's not just white people in oklahoma that are working and struggling. it's people everywhere. that message that democrats and politicians need to put forward needs toe resonate with those groups. but the electoral college certainly an outdated institution that comes from troubling beginnings. >> and david, republicans like o'reilly defending the college will talk about neutralizing rural areas.
instead of making all votes equal. that's all we're talking about whether he you're talking about getting rid of the electoral college. making those rural votes equal to urban votes as opposed to 20 times more powerful than urban votes. >> i don't think i can put it better than you once again. but when i was listening to o'reilly do that rant tonight, i was thinking about south africa. talking about protecting the white establishment, i mean it, o'reilly folks at fox are always you noeling at the left and others for putting things in racial terms. i can't think of anything moraysal than saying that you know, people are protecting or trying to attack a white establishment. i mean, a lot of populists could go after the establishment but they don't call it a white establishment.
sounds like he was defendsing apart hide. there are a lot of low moments from o'reilly. it has to be in the top 100. >> zerlina, thank you for joining us tonight. >> thank you for having me. coming up, the trump boys rewrite their invitation to pay big money to hang with the trump boys. d asked for "the jennifer garner card" which is such a dad thing to do. after he gave his name the woman from capital one said "mr. garner, are you related to jennifer?" kind of joking with him. and my dad was so proud to tell her, "as a matter of fact, she is my middle daughter". so now dad has the venture card, he's earning his double miles, and he made a friend at the company. can i say it? go ahead! what's in your wallet? nice job dad. listen up. etes. we're not professional athletes... but that doesn't mean we're giving up. i'm in this for me. for me. along with diet and exercise, farxiga helps lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes, lowering a1c by up to 1.2 points.
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mints president during the weekend all in exchange for million dollar donations to unnamed conservation charities. the non-profit the opening day foundation was incorporated in texas last week. the filing lists donald trump jr. and eric trump as directors. an opening day brochure advertising a party the day after at inaugurationing in washington, d.c. offered bald eagle, that's what they called them bald eagle donors who contributed $1 million or more "a private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with donald trump and a multiday hunting and or fishing excursion for four guests with donald trump jr. and or eric trump and team. exposure of that offer by "the wall street journal," and politico forced the trump transition team to release this statement. the details that have been reported are merely initial concepts not approved or pursued by the trump family, donald
trump jr. and eric trump are not involved in any capacity. this is afternoon, the opening day brochure was rewritten. to offer big donors a private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guest guests with vips and celebrities associated with the event and a multidate outdoor excursion for four guests. not a word about hanging with the trump boys. joining us now, one of the people whose work helped stop this from going forward, dave levinthal, a senior political reporter at the center for public integrity. he was an editor on the story. also david corn is back with us. dave levinthal, how did you find this story and how quickly did the trump team respond to it? >> took about 24 hours for the trump team to go ahead and formally respond to it. we've had sort of three different types of answers coming out. we have the trump transition team effectively saying no, they're not involved. we have some folks who are involved in this event. it's saying trump sons and
donald trump, maybe they'll be involved. they're sort of involved. then we have documents that indicate that in fact, is the trump brothers are very involved. so a lot of the conflicting messages right now. my colleague carrie levine dug out a registration paperwork from texas that indicated that a non-profit organization had been set up that eric trump and donald trump jr. were directors of this although the transition team says that is that really isn't going to be the case going forward. they won't be involved. so a lot of questions open right now. >> let's liston what donald trump said about pay for play operations during the campaign. >> bill clinton was being paid to give speeches by many of the same people who had matters before the state department
while hillary was secretary of state. clinton donors got favorable treatment and access to the state department. it's called pay for play. >> when it comes to hillary clinton all you have to do is these three words. follow the money. >> we've just learned she tried to get $12 million from the king of morocco for an appearance, one appearance, more pay for play. >> the fbi is investigating. >> david corn, the trump deafness to this concept but that's the way it is with everything. accuse other people of doing it then do that exact what you're accusing other people of. >> lawrence, we could stay here for the rest of the show tonight and on into the next year talking about all the ethical lapses and conflicts that have already occurred before donald trump enters the white house. you know, whether auctioning off
his daughter, having donald trump jr. sitting in on vetting sessions for cabinet picks while he's running a business that has international and national interests. of course, just for the heck of it, let's remind people of trump university. i mean, it's just, everything he has said in attacking the ethics of others whether it's hillary clinton or anybody else he has doubled, tripled, tenfold times doesn't worst. he will be entering the white house in violation of the constitution. he will be violating the gsa contract. at the same time, he's put off this press conference and won't tell us when it's going to happen how he's going to distinguish himself from his business while having maybe his son-in-law who is married to his daughter who will be running the business in his oval office. it's such a mess. it is so sad. i mean, it's really boggles the mind how absurd this is, and yet, we'll see if anybody on the republican side in congress
stands up to this. >> and david levinthal, it seems like there's going to be a cycle here that the press gets into. these kinds of things will be conceived. they will be under way or getting under way, you discover them. other reporters will discover them. and then we'll watch that how long it takes for the trump what will become the trump presidency to unwind one of these things or to try to pull whether i ever trump is in it out of it and say no, no, no, that trump is not a director that have thing. and it seems like this will be a cycle. we will go through. >> we have a whole lost things going on and a preponderance of evidence that donald trump the reality of his transition is not living up to the rhetoric of his campaign. david mentioned the situation with the coffee with ivanka trump. you have the situation with this non-profit organization. engaging in what ostensibly pay to play activity. the biggest one of all over my
shoulder over by the u.s. capitol, are you going to have the trump inauguration. if you have a million dollars, if you want to give that to the trump inauguration, you can access donald trump mike pence and really the entire trump administration at a vet vet intimate and high level during that inauguration weekend. if you don't have two dimes to rub together, the closest you get to trump on the weekend is about 500 feet when the parade is going through. there's definitely a disconnect that takes place. people will say, this happens every inauguration. this always happens but donald trump is sweeping into washington saying i'm going to drain the swamp. i'm going to end pay to play. there's a standard that he has set for himself. the question is, as president and president-elect, will he live up to it. >> no. >> i think it was just a standard he set for the clintons and had to flow intention of living it up to himself. we're out of time on this. thank you very much for joining us tonight.
appreciate it. >> sure thing. coming up next is, donald trump's bankruptcy lawyer would be the worst u.s. ambassador tore israel in history and so of course, that is who donald trump has chosen for ambassador to israel. mary buys a little lamb. one of millions of orders on this company's servers. accessible by thousands of suppliers and employees globally. but with cyber threats on the rise,
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that was it. ♪ now i have nicoderm cq. the nicoderm cq patch with unique extended release technology helps prevent your urge to smoke all day. it's the best thing that ever happened to me. can you say thanks nicoderm cq? every great why needs a great how. donald trump wants his bankruptcy lawyer, david friedman, who be the next ambassador to israel. david friedman has apparently done a good job of using bankruptcy law to save donald trump from paying his bills but he has no experience or expertise in middle east policy or diplomacy of any kind. >> he is in all of his public statements about as diplomatic as donald trump. and he is about as willing to tell the truth as donald trump. he said huma abedin has connections to the muslim brotherhood. he has said that jewish liberals who support j street, a
washington lobbying group, are worse than jewish collaborators with the nazis during world war ii when senator al franken expressed concerns been anti-semitic imagery used in the trump campaign david friedman called senator franken a moron. senator franken will have a vote in the confirmation of friedman as the u.s. ambassador to israel. joining us now, jonathan greenblatt, ceo of the anti-defamation league. what's your reaction to this choice for ambassador to israel. >> look, lawrence, i don't know david friedman. i never met him before but the president has the right to choose his own diplomats. and what i do know is that it appears david friedman is both a very committed to israel as the homeland for the jewish people and b, very close to the president-elect. those are some positive signs. but make no mistake. this isn't some sleepy diplomatic outpost. this is one of our most important embassies in the world in the most volatile region in the world.
and so i look forward to and i think all americans would look forward to the hearing that the senate foreign relations committee will conduct when we can judge him not on a few stray comments but on his qualifications and beliefs that he would bringing to this important job. >> let's -- by the way, about your organization, the anti-defamation league, david friedman has said i don't see how anybody can take the anti-defamation league seriously. what's your reaction to that? >> look, mr. friedman apparently said these things before he was a diplomat. i think calling the anti-defamation league or deriding us or attacking other jews has nazi collaborators are hardly diplomatic things to say. with that said, we're not going to engage in partisan politics. i've got one job which is fighting hate and extremism. we've seen a surge of hate crimes over the last six weeks that have been incredibly troubling both from the extreme right and issues on the radical left.
let me be clear. we're going to stick to our job which is defending the jewish people and other minorities from prejudice and hate no matter what names anybody chooses to call us. >> let's listen to what the president of j street said with andrea mitchell this afternoon. >> no control over his mouth and no control over the way in which he refers to people he doesn't like or doesn't agree with is simply should not pass the test for the senate of advice and consent. it should be a nomination that is rejected. >> it sounds like he is headed for opposition in the senate. >> it would seem that way. what you pointed out about mr. tranken having a vote on the senate foreign relations committee is really important. because this job is so crucial like other ambassadorial posts the senate will have the opportunity, the american people will hear exactly where he stands and what he believes. we should mention for a moment you don't get to pick and choose an ambassador based on their political persuasion.
he has to represent all americans, jewish, baha'i and in that role i hope he's ready to have an inclusive approach to the interests of all-american people. >> jonathan, thank you very much for joining us tonight. >> coming up, a public defender who is hoping in president obama will use his remaining time in office to issue many, many more pardons. she received her own pardon from president obama yesterday. as i was researching my family tree, i discovered a woman named marianne gaspard... it was her french name. then she came to louisiana as a slave. i became curious where in africa she was from. so i took the ancestry dna test to find out more about my african roots. the ancestry dna results were really specific. they told me all of these places in west africa. i feel really proud of my lineage, and i feel really proud of my ancestry. ancestry has many paths to discovering your story, get started for free at ancestry.com
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absolutely no control over this power of the presidency. you would think that presidents would use thaws absolute power and use it a lot. a president could issue dozens of pardons a day, hundreds of pardons, thousands or maybe one a day. no president has ever come close to issuing a pardon a day. a modern presidency lives in political fear of being labeled soft on crime. and so the president's one absolute power is to put it mildly underused. president obama has issued more commutations of sentences than any other president. he has commuted sentences in 1,176 cases. that it's more commutations than any other president has granted but president obama has pardoned fewer people than recent presidents have and issued only 148 pardons. joining us now someone who receive aid commutation from president clinton and pardon from president obama. sear ren nan nunn is now an attorney practicing in georgia. thank you for joining us tonight. appreciate it. >> thank you for having me. >> this is astonishing story.
as we know, even in cases that deserve it, the statistical probability of getting a commutation are like below 1%. the possibility of getting a pardon are below 1%. you got both. how did that happen? >> well, first i would say i just thank god for both of them and through a lot of hard work and through a diligent attorney by the name of sam sheldon, i mean, it's been a long time coming and it's been a long journey. >> and your conviction was on drug charges. is that correct? >> correct. drug conspiracy charges. >> when you were 19. >> yes, when i was 19. i was convicted in federal in
federal district court in minnesota. i received a sentence of 188 months. and that was in december of 1989 after serving almost 11 years, president clinton commuted my sentence on july 7th, 2000. after my release, i went to arizona state university where i obtained my bachelor's degreeing in political science and after that, i went on to law school at the university of michigan and graduated from there and ultimately, i took the bar in georgia and i am now practicing as a criminal defense attorney in the public defender's office. >> what would you like to say to president obama in addition to thank you for the pardon, but in the remaining days of had his presidency how he should be thinking about using this absolute power? >> hilde definitely like you said first say thank to you president obama.
i mean, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. like you said, i think that i'm probably one of a handful of federal prisoners who received a commutation and a pardon. in addition to that, i believe i may have been, i may be the first black female who received both. i would like to say to president obama please do as many commutations and pardons as you can before you leave office because you are truly affecting a lot of lives. being able to have a pardon will help me not only inspire and encourage other who have played poor decisions in their past to know that if they work hard, they can outlive their bad decisions. and i think that i hope that the following administration builds upon the foundation that president obama has already laid in terms of pardons and commutations. >> serena nunn gets tonight's
last word. thank you very much for joining us tonight. >> thank you again for having me. >> thank you. msnbc's live coverage continues into the 11th hour now with brian williams. that's next. tonight a massive manhunt under way in europe for the killer who drove into a crowd of christmas shoppers. isis is now claiming responsibility. also the central question to all those watching in this country, is america any less safe days before christmas and how will the president-elect deal with the threat at home and abroad when it comes to foreign policy. is he taking a page from the mick son playbook? "the 11th hour" begins now. good evening. one month remains until the inauguration of our next president. right now in berlin, the manhunt continues for the person who