Transcript 12/22/17 MTP Daily
Show: MTP DAILY
Date: December 22, 2017
Guest: Susan Del Percio, Caitlin Huey-Burns, Luis Gutierrez, Daniel Ellsberg, Susan Del Percio, Caitlin Huey-Burns
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: If it`s Friday, alarm bells ring. Are you
listening? Good evening. I`m Katy Tur in New York in for Chuck Todd.
Welcome to MTP DAILY. The people around the president are simultaneously
celebrating the end of this year and freaking out about next year. Let`s
start with the senate`s top Republican Mitch McConnell and his year-end
press conference today. Celebrating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: This has been a year of
extraordinary accomplishment by any objective standard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Yes! That is Mitch McConnell celebrating. Trust us. And here he is
sounding the alarm over next year, telling the “Washington Examiner” the
environment is not great. The generic ballot is not good and I`d love to
see the president`s approval rating higher.
So, I think we should anticipate a real “knockdown, drag out” even on the
Senate side. RNC Chair Romney McDaniel is celebrating the tax plan as a
boon for the party in 2018, but according to “POLITICO”, she sent a memo to
the White House warning of the party`s collapse with female voters.
It`s the same story for the president`s inner circle as “The Washington
Post” reports. Within hours of celebrating President Trump`s biggest
legislative achievement, his aides and outside advisers vented their
frustrations with electoral defeats this year and concerns about the 2018
And as for the president, he officially signed the tax bill today before
leaving for Mar-A-Lago, insisting this plan is going to sell itself. And
Democrats are going to come onboard in 2018.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, can you talk a little about how much
you`ll travel to sell this tax bill?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t think I`m going to
have to travel too much to sell it. I think it`s selling itself. It`s
becoming very popular. I think the Democrats will really regret - the
Democrats already regret it. You know, they have their typical thing, it`s
for the rich. They know that`s not true.
I really do believe we`re going to have a lot of bipartisan work done, and
maybe we start with infrastructure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: But, right now, Democrats have very little incentive to help the
president next year. Not in this political environment, which, as I
mentioned, is freaking out a lot of Republicans as they celebrate the end
To put it simply, the trend is not their friend. Steve Kornacki is at the
big board to break it all down.
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look,
Katy, 2018, the midterms, that`s the big year, but 2017, an off-year, it
did produce some clues, some very important clues. Three of them, I think,
pointing about where politics, where elections in 2018 might be heading.
Number one, we can show you is this. It`s the generic ballot. It`s that
question we ask in all of these polls. Which party would you like to see
control Congress? Do you plan to vote for in 2018? We`re ending the year
2017 with the average of all the polls out there giving Democrats a double-
digit advantage on this question. That is significant.
Obviously, yes, plenty of time between now and the midterms. It can
change. But for a party, for an opposition party, to be up double digits
on this question at the end of a president`s first year in office, that is
usually a very alarming sign for that president and for his party. That`s
one of the signs.
There are more, though. This is always crucial in midterm elections.
There has always been a relationship between the president`s approval
rating and how the election goes for the president`s party.
You can see it here. These are the wave elections. Midterm elections of
modern times. First-term presidents suffering big losses in midterm
elections, what do they all have in common? That approval rating - well
under, in some cases - 50 percent.
Look where Donald Trump`s is at the end of this year, 36 percent. That is
right in line - in fact, at the low end of what historically has meant wave
elections against the White House party in that first midterm.
What`s worse for Trump - again, this can change. Everything can change.
But what`s worse for Trump is the highest his number has been - when Gallup
takes his daily poll of his approval rating, the highest he`s been all year
in 2017, 46 percent. That would still put him in this danger zone. So,
again, that`s sign number two.
And sign number three is really simple. It`s what we`ve seen. What we`ve
actually had happen in special elections this year. Look, you`ve got four
House races here. And three of them, Kansas` 4th district around Wichita,
South Carolina`s 5th around Rock Hill; the at-large seat in Montana. Look
at that. 20, 15, 15, double-digit gains for the Democrats from Trump`s
performance in `16.
Of course, you had the Alabama Senate race. Democrats winning there for
the first time in a generation. Really, the only thing Republicans can
look at in this map and take solace from, that suburban race in Georgia,
north of Atlanta, Trump did barely win it. Democrats put a lot into it.
Republicans won that.
Honestly, that`s the only positive thing when you look at this map, when
you look at this map, that Republicans can really take out of 2017.
Otherwise, historically, you`ve got three things pointing at the end of
2017 to a hopeful year of 2018 for Democrats. For Republicans, maybe
they`ve got to say, hey, Trump defied history in 2016, we may need to defy
history in 2018, Katy.
TUR: Kornacki with the cold, hard numbers. Thank you, Steve. I`m joined
now by MSNBC political analyst Hugh Hewitt, the nationally syndicated radio
host and host of “Hugh Hewitt” right here on MSNBC.
Hugh, good to see you. Thanks for being here. You just watched Kornacki
lay out the numbers for the Republicans in 2018. From the looks of what
he`s talking about, it doesn`t look good. What is your reaction?
HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, don`t bet against Kornacki
when it comes to numbers. That`s number one. So, Republicans are right to
be very cautious.
But if you give him more time, I think he would have to point to an
overwhelmingly favorable Republican map just in terms of the number of
Democratic seats that have to be defended in states that Donald Trump
carried. States like Missouri, where Claire McCaskill faces Josh Holly.
You also have to look at 3 percent growth in 2017 and the likelihood of
perhaps 4 percent growth next year. And, Katy, what the president said
about the bill selling itself, in the two days since the tax bill passed,
three different companies, Comcast among them, our parent company, the Bank
of America and AT&T have given $1,000 bonuses to 445,000 individuals.
That`s the kind of thing that Mitch McConnell was talking about, the optics
changing, that Paul Ryan talked about, the reframing of the political
So, the president`s numbers are horrible, but the accomplishments of this
year, especially when it comes to Neil Gorsuch and 12 appeals court judges,
the EPA rollback of the Waters of the United States rule, the clean power
plan, the Paris accord and, most importantly, defeating ISIS in Syria and
Iraq, there`s a lot of reframing going on.
So, I think Steve is absolutely right. I never argue with him. But
there`s a lot of stuff on the margin that makes Republicans like me more
TUR: You make a good point about the companies reinvesting and handing out
bonuses. Let`s see if more companies end up doing that. That`s a lot of
people, yes, but that is not the majority of the American public and there
is still a lot of companies out there who are sitting on tons of cash, $2.3
trillion already. Let`s see how much this tax break gives them and let`s
see if those companies end up reinvesting. Taxes in a moment, though.
Let`s talk about just the voters in general. They don`t seem to be voting
- right now, at least, along the lines of their pocketbook. They don`t
seem to be considering it all that much. Wages have been going up already.
The market has been booming since Donald Trump took office. Unemployment
near record lows, yes.
But at the same time, Donald Trump is very unpopular. He`s the least
popular president at this time since we`ve been keeping records of this.
Four in ten Americans want to see impeachment proceedings started.
Republicans are getting crushed on the generic ballot and Democrats,
despite all of that, Hugh, are more trusted on the issue of the economy.
So, why are you still so confident that there`s not going to be a
HEWITT: Well, crushed is actually an understatement. There`s one other
poll out there that has an 18-point deficit for Republicans on generic
When the Republicans come back, they have to keep working. The president
mentioned infrastructure today. All the money that`s stranded overseas,
the $2 trillion, if most of it comes back under the repatriation window,
there`s going to be a pile of dough to do infrastructures funding on if
they do it the right way.
So, I think there are some policy opportunities. One more budget. One
more set of budget reconciliations, probably another Supreme Court vacancy,
certainly another dozen federal appeals court judges, so that come October
and September, the argument is going to be very simply, even if you don`t
like Donald Trump, and the majority of Americans don`t - indeed, I would
argue there is a lot of Republicans that don`t, the question will be, are
you better off than you were two years ago and can you risk going back to
Democratic rule of either House?
Or do you put up with Donald Trump, the noise and the disruption, and go
with the economic gains and gains for the rule of law? It`s going to be a
close-run thing, Katy.
I don`t disagree with anything that anyone is saying. I just think the tax
bill was such an enormous win in reframing everything else. It`s
TUR: Let me ask you about the tax bill. Right now, the average American,
typical family, Republicans are touting this, are going to get $2,000 worth
of relief. That`s $20 a week. $20 a week is not exactly paradigm
HEWITT: Actually, it is. I do believe that you will find that - for
example, one of our -
TUR: Can you say it is paradigm shifting when 80 percent of the rest of
the benefits are going for the very wealthy and the corporations?
HEWITT: Yes, I can, because I believe that economic growth flows from that
economic return to the corporations and that employment pressure drives up
wages. Some of the under story, not just bonuses, is the hike in minimum
wage at Wells Fargo and at Third Fifth Bank from $13.50 to $15.
I really do believe this is going to cause 4 percent growth, which we
haven`t seen in a decade. If that is the case, this economic tax bill will
have succeeded in pulling the chestnuts of the Republicans out of the fire.
There`s a lot of danger if it all becomes carried interest kickbacks to the
super wealthy and we`ve got that problem to worry about. But, right now,
Republicans are aware that they`ve got to sell.
The good news is, they`re selling money in pockets and $20 a week is not a
lot to some, but it`s an enormous to others. People in the Trump
coalition, people from places like Trumbull County, my hometown, people
like places in Michigan and Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, the blue wall that
This is real money. $2,000 a year is real money and it goes a long way to
a lot of people.
TUR: It may be real money, but we`ll see if folks look at that and think
to themselves, God, I`m getting $2,000, but lots of very, very rich folks
already are getting a whole lot more than that.
Hugh Hewitt, though, we`re going to have to leave it there. Appreciate it.
Merry Christmas, buddy.
HEWITT: Merry Christmas, Katy. Let`s go to tonight`s panel. Caitlin
Huey-Burns is the national political reporter for “RealClearPolitics”,
Jonathan Alter is an MSNBC political analyst and “Daily Beast” columnist,
and Susan Del Percio is a Republican strategist.
Guys, Hugh Hewitt is painting a rosier picture than many are painting for
2018 for Republicans. Even Mitch McConnell is somewhat worried about 2018.
Ronna Romney McDaniel worried about the women in 2018. This tax bill.
Unless the polling suddenly gets a lot better, could be an albatross for
Republicans. What`s your take, Jon?
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: So, I think Democrats are getting
a little ahead of themselves. I`m a little bit more on Hugh`s side of the
argument when it comes to the politics.
It`s way early now to be predicting a Democratic takeover of the Congress.
There`s so many moving parts -
TUR: Eleven months.
ALTER: - we haven`t talked about. And that`s a lifetime in American
politics, as you know. But just - for instance, take money. Which is
extremely important in Senate and House races.
We don`t know whether the donor class in the Republican Party is going to
really step up now, and I think some of what McConnell is saying, and the
other Republicans are saying, and, oh, we`re really concerned about this
election, it`s to convince the donors to put in a couple hundred million
dollars to retain the House and the Senate.
Then you have gerrymandering, which makes these midterms quite different
from midterms we`ve seen in the past where it has been a real movement of
House seats. The maps are drawn to the advantage of the House Republican
Now, having said that, I think the Democrats still have a good chance, but
they need to do a lot more work on messaging and they need to recognize
that they`re in for a big fight in November. It`s not a gimme.
TUR: You`re shaking your head.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, there a lot of things to
play out there. And I do think Jonathan is right. No one should get ahead
But even Democrats, when they came out on the tax plan, they said, well,
it`s going to be an initial sugar high. So, I agree with Jonathan. I
agree with Hugh. Yes, that`s going to be very good.
But what else is in there is repealing the mandate for healthcare, which
guess what you get in October, a month before the election is your rate
increase from the health insurance. And there`s very little doubt that
that`s going to cause a big increase.
So, will their gains of $20 a week be washed out when they see what their
premiums are, when voters see what their premiums are next year?
The other thing is we`re assuming that all things are stable, and we can`t
do that, when we look at Donald Trump as president. Who is he going to
endorse? He endorsed Roy Moore, an accused child molester last year.
The Republicans also in states, the very blue states, where SALT, which did
go through, is going to hurt in California, Pennsylvania, New York, have a
lot of swing districts in it. So, now those members of Congress are going
to have to worry about primaries. Do you bring Donald Trump in to win it?
Because if you do, you`re sure to lose the general.
So, there are a lot of moving parts, but I agree with Steve`s analysis, and
given the way the economics and the uncertainty of Trump, it looks to be a
very decent year for Democrats, but - but as I say about my own party,
never underestimate the ability of my party to mess things up.
TUR: I heard that same thing from a Democrat earlier today. A Democratic
strategist that I was sitting down with, talking about his party, saying if
there`s a way for Democrats to mess it up, they`re going to mess it up.
CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “REALCLEARPOLITICS”:
Right. Well, they also don`t want to get overexcited about some of these
recent wins because they do have a lot of work to do.
On the Republican side, it would be political malpractice not to brace for
the worst. To your point, they are concerned about the money, but also
about the surge of Democratic enthusiasm that we`ve seen.
Now, the tax bill, I think, you know, Democrats take a risk by campaigning
against it, if it turns out that people are seeing a little bit more money
in their paychecks. But on the same token, they`re also kind of counting
on the president`s approval rating not increasing by much and people kind
of transferring their support or their disapproval of certain policies
coming from this administration to their disapproval of the president.
And I think when you`re kind of looking at the bigger picture here, the
question is, OK, the Republicans did a lot this year. This administration
did a lot beyond taxes. The judicial nominations are huge and other
executive measures. Does that animate Republicans or does that serve to
really rev up the Democratic base in some of these places they need to win?
We`ve seen in 2017, we`ve seen a lot more millennials coming out; on the
older side of millennials, we`ve seen an increase. Women are coming out.
TUR: Particularly with the #MeToo movement. That could be a real game
HUEY-BURNS: And that is a huge game changer.
TUR: But Donald Trump wants next year to be the year of bipartisanship.
He`s talking about the infrastructure bill, the one that everyone says he
should have started with if you really wanted bipartisanship when he first
got into the White House.
ALTER: Good luck with that.
TUR: Are Democrats going to work with him?
ALTER: Good luck with that.
TUR: His message is, Democrats don`t want to fix your bridges, they are
falling down. Your roads are collapsing, blame it on the Democrats.
Trains are crashing, blame it on the Democrats. Is that not going to work
in his favor?
ALTER: He`ll try that and he might score some points because he hasn`t
done anything until this point. I don`t actually think there have been
many accomplishments in terms of his campaign promises.
Hasn`t done anything for the independents and Democrats and working-class
people who voted for him. He`s done nothing for them so far. So, I think
he gets that. And that`s where they`re going to propose infrastructure.
But, remember, infrastructure plan isn`t even that popular with Republicans
because of what it does to the deficit, which they only care about when
it`s spending, not when it`s tax cuts. They didn`t care at all about the
deficit last week. Now, this coming year, they`re going to talk all the
time about the deficit.
TUR: Indulge me before we go. I want to get on the record with two
things. Donald Trump keeps touting this as the largest tax cut ever. We
have a graphic of this. This is not the largest tax cut ever. It`s not
Trump, 0.9 percent of the GDP. And look at everybody else. Reagan,
Truman, Truman, Obama. Not even the last decade. Johnson, Obama again.
Also, he says he`s making history with the number of bills signed in his
first year. Again, not even close. Look at this graphic. 96 for Trump.
121 for Obama. 102 for Bush. 208 for Clinton. Just wanted to get on the
record with those two things.
The panel is staying with us. Just ahead, the DACA divide. Why some
Democrats are feeling the heat from other Democrats over helping young
TUR: Welcome back. As we said, President Trump is off to his Florida
estate for the holidays, but not before signing the Republican tax bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`ll sign this today rather than having a very big, formal ceremony
in two weeks when we were going to do it because I didn`t want you folks to
say that I wasn`t keeping my promise. I am keeping my promise. I am
signing it before Christmas. I said that the bill would be on my desk
before Christmas. And you are holding me literally to that. So, we did a
rush job today. It`s not fancy, but it`s the Oval Office. It`s the great
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: One thing President Trump didn`t do before jetting out to Mar-A-Lago,
hold a year-end press conference. It`s something of a tradition for
presidents to take questions from the White House press corps before the
end of the year.
We don`t know yet if he`ll hold one next week while he`s at Mar-A-Lago, but
President Trump held only one formal solo press conference this year. It
was in February. All the way back in February. That`s compared to 11 from
President Obama in his first year, five for George W. Bush and 12 for Bill
We`ll be right back with more MTP DAILY in just 60 seconds.
TUR: Welcome back. Some division in the ranks of the Democratic Party
before the holiday break. Despite opposition from Democratic leadership,
17 Democratic senators last night voted for the stop gap spending bill,
ensuring there will not be a government shutdown before the end of the
Also, not happening by the end of the year, a so-called DACA fix. Some
Democratic leaders had promised to oppose any year-end spending deal that
did not include legislation to protect the young immigrants known as
But in the end, moderate Democrats did not want to risk a government
shutdown over the issue. Party leaders are now promising to fight the
fight in the new year.
Still, some Democrats aren`t happy with the decision to punt until January.
Yesterday, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus went to Senate
Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer`s office where according to “The Washington
Post” things got heated.
Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez reportedly accused Democratic senators
of throwing DREAMers “under the bus.” Schumer then raised his voice and
told Gutierrez not to insult fellow Democrats.
Joining me now is Illinois Democratic congressman and member of the
Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Luis Gutierrez. Congressman, thank you so
much for joining us. Good to have you.
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you.
TUR: What exactly happened yesterday with Chuck Schumer?
GUTIERREZ: Look, for me, it`s pretty simple. What I say and how I express
myself today with you before this camera and your audience, same way I
expressed myself when I`m in a private meeting. I`m not going to change.
I think we need to be completely transparent in how we advocate for people.
I think part of the problem that we have in Washington, D.C. is people
really don`t believe us. They think we say one thing in public and another
thing behind closed doors. That`s just not the case.
The fact is that in the House of Representatives, Katy, under the
leadership of Nancy Pelosi, we were able to keep all of the Democrats
together to say, here`s our basic - it`s not about shutting the government
down. It`s about saying, if you have a Republican agenda, a Republican
proposal, and you don`t want to include our ideals, our agenda, our vision
of America, then get 218 votes. That`s what they did in the House of
Unfortunately, in the Senate, once again, we find Democratic senators
saying, manana. Saying “tomorrow”.
TUR: Do you think they threw them under the bus?
GUTIERREZ: Look, here`s what I believe. I believe that when you sit down
with the president of the United States, less than 24 hours after he has
revoked the legalization of 800,000 young people who are school teachers,
who are doctors, who have come out of the shadows, who have been educated
by our system, who have been through two, three background checks and say
to them, you`re going to live in fear now, we`re coming after you, we`re
allowing - because, you know, DACA isn`t like it expires next march.
Already 30,000 DREAMers either have lost their DACA or didn`t reapply
because they don`t feel that it`s worth it.
TUR: Do you have confidence it`s going to pass?
GUTIERREZ: We need to get it done right away.
TUR: Do you have confidence, though, if it`s not getting done right now
that it will pass in January?
GUTIERREZ: Here`s what I believe. I believe that if we speak clearly to
those in powerful positions about the needs of those that are being
attacked by what I can only describe as a racist, misogynist and xenophobic
administration, that we need to raise the bar too in defending them. And
if we raise it, yes.
I tweeted after the meeting, just so that we`re clear, since now people
want to talk about what was a private meeting, I shook Chuck Schumer`s hand
and I told him I look forward to working with him and I got on my Twitter
account and I said, we`re doing better today. Democrats are more on the
same page now than they were before the meeting.
I think that`s what meetings should be. Where people come, bring their
visions of the future, and sometimes there is a clash, and clashes aren`t
necessarily a bad thing. It kind of clears the air.
TUR: Do you think the Democratic Party is taking advantage of the support
of Hispanic-Americans or do you think that the Democratic Party has the
interests of Hispanic-Americans front and center?
GUTIERREZ: Well, Katy, yes. In so many avenues, it does. In so many
avenues. When it comes to healthcare, when it comes to the minimum wage,
you know, when it comes to job training, when it comes to education, which
is so important, when it comes to giving housing opportunities, absolutely.
But on the core civil rights issue of the moment, immigrants and immigrant
reform, given the positions of Donald Trump, who says that Mexicans are
murderers, rapists and drug dealers and we should get rid of them all -
let`s remember, that`s the basis, this foundation of his campaign, and when
he says Mexicans, he means Latinos, he means all of us.
And so, I think that we need to be as responsive. So, to answer your
question, look, if we`re going to take DREAMers and we`re going to extol
their values and their contributions and we`re going to tell the world how
importantly special they are, which I believe in the core of my heart, then
we also have to defend them with the same kind of tenacity and with the
same kind of rigor, and that`s all I`m saying to Democrats.
Don`t take DREAMers as we have to the 2012 and 2016 - DREAMers, we took
them to the conventions, and said here they are, they`re our best and
finest and then let them down by joining Republicans and not allowing them
to live in a free space and allowing them to get out of this hostage
situation that they find themselves in and become citizens of the United
Because those kids, Katy, are as American as my children, in everything but
a piece of paper. And just like - this is Christmas, Katy! What did
anybody think you should do in the meeting days before Christmas? It`s a
holiday season of peace and harmony and family, and I want peace and
harmony and family values for those immigrant families, too.
TUR: Congressman, looking forward to the fight for DACA, a fight for
DREAMers. You`re going to be a part of it. The president`s going to be a
part of it. Republicans are going to be a part of it. They`re going to
want to negotiate, they`re going to want to get something for something.
What would you be willing to give the Republicans or give this president
for protection for DREAMers? Is a wall, part of the wall, funding for the
wall on the table potentially?
GUTIERREZ: Yes. Here`s how I look at it, Katy. I don`t negotiate with
hostage-takers. The DREAMers have already fulfilled all their
requirements. All of them once. The vast majority of them twice.
I mean, going through a criminal background check, going through an
exhaustive background check, they`ve gone through it twice. Tens of
thousands of them three times.
And I say, look, the president of the United States said - even Donald
Trump said, they`re great and I`m going to do something special and
important. Something great for them, which he always says just about
So, why can`t he just keep his word at least on one thing, while he know he
consistently doesn`t keep his word about so many other things. And I`m
saying to Democrats, there`s no reason to negotiate about this.
It`s about a budget deal, right? And within the constructs of a budget
deal, why should we say to the - because this is what Republicans are going
to want to do. They`re going to want to end family reunification. They
call it chain migration.
These are the same Republicans that say they`re for family values and for
families and take pictures of themselves with their children and their
wives and extol how great family members they are.
You know where family also starts? I say to my Republican colleagues, in an
immigration debate. Keeping immigrant families together. The same way my
family was kept together. The same way generations of immigrants from
Ireland and Poland and Germany and Asia and Africa have been kept together.
I want to keep those families together. Let`s extol those family values.
TUR: Congressman Luis Gutierrez. Congressman, thank you very much. Merry
GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Katy.
TUR: And coming up, he is the man responsible for one of the biggest
political bombshells in history. Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the
Pentagon Papers. How his decision to blow the whistle changed Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL ELLSBERG, ACTIVIST AND FORMER U.S. MILITARY ANALYST: I think the
lesson is that the people of this country can`t afford to let the president
run the country by himself without the help of the Congress, without the
help of the public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Still to come, how one of the biggest stories of 2017, the Russia
investigation, will echo in 2018.
TUR: Welcome back. The Pentagon Papers helped end a war and bring down a
president. And now they`re even the subject of a new Steven Spielberg film.
The massive leak of top secret government documents revealed that the
government was lying to the American people about the Vietnam war.
The political firestorm all started with Daniel Ellsberg, a former U.S.
military analyst, who became disillusioned with the conflict in Vietnam.
ELLSBERG (voice-over): I began xeroxing the McNamara study in the fall of
1969. At the end of the day, working at RAND, I would put several volumes
into my briefcase to take with me. Walking past the security guards, I
could feel my heart beating.
I couldn`t help thinking about the dozen or so secrecy agreements I had
signed over the course of my career in government. The task seemed endless.
I often worked through the night. Early in the morning, I returned the
papers to my secret RAND and headed home.
PETE MCCLOSKEY, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM CALIFORNIA: The first issue
they ran had a paragraph from assistant secretary of defense to Secretary
McNamara. I can almost tell it by memory. We`re in Vietnam, 10 percent to
help the South Vietnamese, 20 percent to hold back the Chinese, and 70
percent to save American face.
Well, every woman in America that had a boyfriend or a husband, they could
take it if we were defending the South Vietnamese, but to learn we`re just
trying to save face, that is a thing that angers you.
TUR: That was part of a documentary airing on MSNBC tomorrow called “The
Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.”
The man responsible for sharing those critical documents is also the author
of the new book, “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War
Planner.” Daniel Ellsberg joins me now. Daniel, thank you so much for being
here. It`s wonderful to have you.
When you`re talking about the Pentagon Papers, you said one of the biggest
lessons to come out of them was that we can`t afford to let a president run
the country by himself without the help of Congress, without the help of
the American people. Do you think that the country is still operating with
that lesson in mind?
ELLSBERG: I wish that were true, but, really, for a long time now we`ve in
effect delegated the authority to get us into a war to our president and
that`s been very costly. That was true in Vietnam. We were essentially
defrauded into that war by the president I served, Lyndon Johnson.
It was true years later in Iraq, under George W. Bush. Essentially the same
kinds of lies and misleading. So, the lesson does get learned for a while,
I think, and then it`s forgotten again. People don`t want the
Congress doesn`t want the responsibility, that the constitution lays on
them, in Article One, Section Eight, which says that Congress should
declare war only and means by that that it should be a decision of
Congress, not one man, when American troops are committed to combat.
But we pretty much lost that right at this moment. It`s extremely timely
that this movie is coming out right now, the documentary and film by
Spielberg. Because once again, we have a president that seems to believe
that he doesn`t need Congress or advice from the public or anything if he
should decide to go to war against North Korea.
That would be the first time that we`ve made nuclear threats and any kind
of threats, really, against a nuclear weapons state since the Cuban missile
crisis, which I describe in my new book, in which I participated at the
time. It`s very dangerous.
TUR: I want to talk to you about the book in a moment. I also just want to
talk a little bit more about the similarities that we`re seeing today that
we experienced in the past. We also now have a president who is critical of
the judicial system, critical of other branches of government, critical of
And that bringing us to one other moment from the film. I want to play it
for our audience and then have you react on the other side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In one of the most important judicial decisions in the
history of the country, the Supreme Court today ruled that The New York
Times and The Washington Post may continue to publish the secret Pentagon
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ruling was amazingly simple. It was approving the
need for prior censorship is a heavy burden and the government didn`t meet
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A decision was a great one. The story today is, what the
constitution of this country means to us. I really – I never appreciated
what the meaning and importance of separation of power is so much as in the
MAX FRANKEL, JOURNALIST: When we finally won the right to continue
publication from the Supreme Court, this was a firm ruling that national
security alone, the cry of national security, does not justify censorship
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wanted to tell you that I was so damn mad when that
Supreme Court had to – first I didn`t like their decision, but
unbelievable, wasn`t it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was unbelievable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those clowns on there, I tell you, I hope I outlive the
TUR: Nixon wasn`t happy with the courts and Nixon wasn`t happy with the
press. Donald Trump isn`t happy with courts and he tells everyone about it.
The entire American public is not happy with the president. He criticizes
journalists every single day. When you see what happened then and you see
what is happening now, what are you concerned about?
ELLSBERG: You know, Nixon`s lesson on his last day in office just before he
resigned, he told his staff, when you hate someone, you bring yourself
down. And that was a good lesson that he learned at that time.
Trump hates the press, as Nixon did. Nixon called them the enemy. Trump
calls them the opposition party. I don`t think either had any respect for
the first amendment of the constitution or the fact that in fact the
government is the servant of the people as Justice Black said in his
opinion on the Pentagon Papers, not the people are the servants of the
So the governors, the sovereign public has a right to know what`s being
done in their name, what their decisions are, and governments like all
bureaucracies are anxious to keep their decision-making to themselves, so
they can`t be held accountable.
That`s happening now, of course. And all the voices you`ve just been
replaying actually are the actual people who participated in the time
including Nixon right there at the end. I know that Nixon by the way can
use words as the president on television and radio apparently that others
get bleeped out for, but I think I could even quote some of them, but I
TUR: Let`s talk for a second about your new book, “Doomsday Machine.” You
were a nuclear war planner. You hear the president, see the president
tweeting about nuclear war when we`re talking about North Korea. What is it
like for you to see the president tweeting so casually about something so
ELLSBERG: Of course, his informality, his casualness about the possibility
of nuclear war has people worried, and rightly worried. It`s attracted
their attention to dangers that have been there all along. As I show in the
book in one chapter, virtually all the presidents have considered the
possibility of eminent use of nuclear danger, nuclear war, usually in
secret from the public.
There`s a difference here now. They`re talking about it publicly and using
what Nixon called his madman theory, the threat of madly reckless actions.
But in this case, when Nixon was threatening North Vietnam, which was
something I was very concerned about, and he was concerned that I might
expose that, that`s why he took criminal actions against me that, in fact,
did bring him to the brink of impeachment and lend to that speech he gave
when he had to resign.
But he was making threats against the non-nuclear state, North Vietnam.
This time for the first time since, as I said earlier, the Cuban missile
crisis, 55 years ago, in which I participated, I have a couple chapters
about that in the book, first time since then, the threats are being made
against a nuclear weapon state.
We can get a two-sided nuclear war. And Senator Lindsey Graham`s monstrous
comments that all the casualties will be over there, he said he was assured
of that by President Trump, is a rather vile calculation and it`s not even
true because if he believes that, he`s a fool or he`s been deluded.
The fact is if Kim Jong-un doesn`t need ICBMs to get casualties over here
in the United States, he needs only to put a warhead of which he has scores
on a boat and sail it to Long Beach harbor or Long Island or Los Angeles
harbor, San Francisco harbor near where I live, and explode it by radio.
The idea that he has not made provision for such retaliation, if he is
killed, as were openly that is Trump is openly threatening to do –
ELLSBERG: – is absolutely wrong. Unreliable. Casualties will be over here.
TUR: Daniel Ellsberg, the perfect guest to have for these times, thank you
so much for joining us, the author of “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of
a Nuclear War Planner.” Also don`t miss MSNBC`s special airing of the
documentary, “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the
Pentagon Papers.” Saturday, 9 p.m. Eastern, only on MSNBC. Thank you, Mr.
Ellsberg. We will be back in just a moment.
TUR: Welcome back. 2017 is winding down and a lot of Republicans including
the president are hoping that the Russia investigation winds down, too.
TUR: Time for “The Lid.” The panel is back. Susan Del Percio, Caitlin Huey-
Burns, Jonathan Alter. Guys, let`s talk about Robert Mueller. Richard
Painter and Norman Eisen had an op-ed in The New York Times talking about
the threats to Mueller. We keep talking about is the president going to
fire Mueller? Is he not going to fire Mueller?
Here`s what Eisen and Painter said, that he could curb him, he can install
someone at the Department of Justice to oversee the investigation, a
minder, if you will. He could issue pardons, I don`t know, to Don Jr.,
Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn.
He could smear Mueller which he is already doing in order to turn public
opinion against him or he could try to fire him or try to fire those in the
Justice Department that would have to fire him. Do you think that this is a
real possibility? Democrats are worried about it.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don`t think him firing Mueller
at this point is a real possibility. He had his legislative victory. He
knows that if he wants to do anything else going forward, that too many
Republican would stand up and call foul.
TUR: Do you think Republicans will stand up and call foul?
DEL PERCIO: I think so. I think there will be some who will be rooting him
on. There is no doubt.
CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: I think
there is a divide.
DEL PERCIO: But I think that`s one of the divides that really remains. And
I think at least 50 percent in the Senate or the Republicans would call him
out on it. But I don`t think any of those four things that you mentioned
will deter Mueller until he is out of there and pulled out of there.
If he is fired until his last breath, he will be working to do his job, and
that`s what really scares the Trump folks the most. He is undeterred. He
will just keep going. You can try and smear him. Mueller doesn`t care. He
is going to keep going. And, you know, that`s a good thing.
TUR: Are you as confident?
ALTER: No. Nothing is beyond Donald Trump. Every time we think he`s touched
bottom, he crashes through the floor. So, I wouldn`t be all surprised –
TUR: Endorsing an accused child molester.
ALTER: I wouldn`t be all surprised if he fired Mueller. I do think the more
likely outcome is that he will appoint somebody in Rosenstein`s place to
TUR: A minder.
ALTER: A minder to kind of eat away at the investigation when the press
isn`t looking. Cut their funding. Make various decisions that are hard to
track that make it harder for them to do their job.
Meanwhile, Fox is going almost 24/7 saying that this is a coup attempt.
They`re doing everything they can to lay the groundwork for attacking this
man of great integrity, Bob Mueller. It is really a shameful moment in the
sort of Republican echo chamber right now. They want to do something that
would destroy our faith in the rule of law, which is what getting rid of
Mueller would do.
TUR: Well, listen, I mean, even if Mueller comes out and lays out his
conclusions, says the president obstructed justice, says he colluded with
the Russians, I don`t know if he says that, there is already going to be a
good portion of the public that is not going to believe it.
HUEY-BURNS: Right, and that`s the whole point. I mean, they are trying to
sway public opinion on this and in some circles, it`s working. I think
that`s why you`re also seeing Democrats try to run the counter narrative
here, right, trying to protect the investigation.
I think the Democrats, you know, risk looking political at some points,
too. Taking to the Senate floor at times to talk about not firing Mueller.
But when it exists as a possibility, not necessarily firing Mueller, but
getting to people at DOJ, which I think is the actual real concern here,
you know, you`re having this this really polarized fight on both sides.
DEL PERCIO: Let`s go back to the conversation we had about 2018 in last
segment. What does a Mueller firing do to motivate Democrats in 2018, and
maybe even turn some Republicans? I mean, that`s a big gamble because I
think right now the president is more concerned, he`s starting to wake up
to the fact that if he loses the House, he can face impeachment.
DEL PERCIO: And firing Mueller will be certainly very detrimental to that
ALTER: That`s a good point and his lawyers will tell him, if you fire
Mueller, you won`t be shutting down the investigation.
DEL PERCIO: Correct.
ALTER: Because the state, the New York state attorney general has a lot of
this material that Mueller has collected. Pardons don`t do any good. They
don`t pardon –
TUR: For state offenses.
ALTER: And they can bring indictments.
TUR: We`ll see if that`s what ends up happening. I would remind everybody
that back in 2016 when it looked like Donald Trump was going to lose
because of the “Access Hollywood” tape, the re-energizing of the Hillary
Clinton e-mail investigation led a lot of moderate Republicans and those
who didn`t like Donald Trump to say hey, I can`t vote for somebody who
might be under federal investigation.
Oh, how times have changed. Caitlin Huey-Burns, Jonathan Alter, Susan Del
Percio, thank you very much. Just ahead, Roy Moore still fighting to keep
up with the Jones.
TUR: In case you missed it, when it comes to waiting for Roy Moore`s
concession, you really haven`t missed a thing. He still hasn`t conceded the
race he lost a week and a half ago. In fact, he is still trying to fund
raise for a recount.
His election integrity fund has raised almost all the $75,000 goal. But he
is not going to get one. Alabama secretary of state now says there aren`t
enough overseas military votes and provisional ballots to trigger a
recount. So, Roy Moore appears to be riding solo on this one.
That`s all for tonight. Happy Holidays, everybody, at home. We`ll be back
tomorrow with – Monday with more “MTP Daily.”
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