The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 8/17/2016
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: August 17, 2016
Guest: Benjamin Shapiro, Robert Costa, Howard Dean, Michael Steele, Walter
Isaacson, Hank Butler
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, thank you for being with
us, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening,
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Rachel, we`re going to have
Walter Isaacson join us tonight to talk about the Trump intelligence
briefing. He`s not just the author of the Steve Jobs biography.
He also wrote a biography of Henry Kissinger, he knows this stuff inside
out, so, we`re looking forward to that with Walter –
MADDOW: Nice –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
MADDOW: Particularly with Trump saying that he doesn`t trust the
O`DONNELL: Yes –
MADDOW: Community –
O`DONNELL: It was a great way to begin intelligence day for Donald Trump.
MADDOW: Exactly, thanks my friend –
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Well, would you hire a pilot who had never
flown a plane? Of course not. Donald Trump wouldn`t either.
But he would hire someone to run his campaign who has never worked in a
campaign in any capacity at all.
Which leaves Republican professionals wondering tonight, now more than
ever, is Donald Trump trying to crash this thing?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: He can hire and fire anybody
he wants from his campaign.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, DONALD TRUMP 2016 CAMPAIGN: I know
someone calling it a shake-up, and it really is not –
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATIONS & FOUNDER, TRUMP
ENTERTAINMENT RESORTS: Believe me.
CLINTON: But he is still the same man.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, this is the new brain
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Is she going to have some
sort of remote control of his vocal cords?
TRUMP: The nominee is me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re also two people who are not going to push
back at Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody can save Donald from Donald.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bannon is really just going to ramp it up.
CHARLIE SYKES, RADIO HOST: This is screwing the pooch rather royally here.
It`s taking the campaign in exactly the wrong direction.
TRUMP: I think we`re going to do very well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is Trump making these changes? What does it mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he`s making them, of course he`s losing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys are down. And it makes sense –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Says who? –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That there would –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Says who?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of them, all of them.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Forget the staff, the most
important thing is the candidate.
TRUMP: I am who I am, it`s me. I don`t want to change.
CLINTON: There is no new Donald Trump, this is it.
TRUMP: Believe me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, your presidential campaign is sinking like a stone, you`re
losing in every national poll and important battleground states.
You`re hopelessly behind, ten points behind in Pennsylvania. You`re on
your way to total and complete humiliation on election day, just 83 days
And so, what do you do? You shake up your campaign. You bring in someone
new. And only if you`re Donald Trump, you hire someone for your campaign
who not only has no experience in presidential campaigns, but has never
worked in any campaign anywhere for anything.
Not for city council, not for school board, nothing, nowhere. And you give
that person a title that doesn`t really exist in presidential campaigns,
CEO of the campaign.
Donald Trump must have thought that was a brilliant stroke, to bring in the
corporate labeling of America to his campaign, and call Stephen Bannon his
campaign`s new CEO.
Stephen Bannon`s experience near politics has been limited to running a
right-wing website named after its founder, Andrew Breitbart who died
suddenly at age 43 four years ago.
Hiring Stephen Bannon to run a campaign, any campaign, never mind a
presidential campaign, is like hiring a pilot who has never flown a plane.
I mean, never even flown as a passenger in a plane. It is an act of
political insanity. And while he was at it, Donald Trump decided to fill
the position of campaign manager which had been vacant for two months with
someone who of course has never been a campaign manager of any candidate
for any office anywhere.
Kellyanne Conway, the new Trump campaign manager is a small-time Republican
pollster who has been on the political talk-show circuit for years. She
has never been a pollster in a presidential general election.
But she might have been the only person who has ever worked in politics who
was willing to take the job of Trump campaign manager. Paul Manafort still
holds the title of campaign chairman and has been the boss of the Trump
campaign even though it has really operated like a campaign with no boss.
Paul Manafort has now been sidelined instead of fired, possibly because
Donald Trump feels that firing Manafort would add credibility to the
already credible reports that Manafort may have received millions of
dollars in cash for his political work from the president of Ukraine,
Before that president fled Ukraine and happily took up residence in
neighboring Russia, where he is being protected by Vladimir Putin.
Because Vladimir Putin is obviously still grateful that President
Yanukovych always put Vladimir Putin`s interests ahead of the interests of
the people of Ukraine.
Here is how the new Republican presidential campaign manager who has never
been a campaign manager outlined her campaign strategy today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONWAY: This is like a tennis match, you look across the net and you keep
lobbing at her. You don`t – you don`t pick a fight with the ref, you
don`t boo the crowd, they`re just saying focus on her because she is very
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s like a tennis match in which one of the players
doesn`t know where the net is or what a racket is. Here`s what Hillary
Clinton said about the Trump campaign today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I think it`s fair to say that Donald Trump has shown us who he
is. He can hire and fire anybody he wants from his campaign. They can
make him read new words from a teleprompter.
But he is still the same man who insults gold star families, demeans women,
mocks people with disabilities, and thinks he knows more about ISIS than
our generals. There is no new Donald Trump. This is it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Ben Shapiro; former editor-at-large for
“Breitbart News” and an editor-in-chief of the “Daily Wire”. Also with us,
Robert Costa; national political reporter for the “Washington Post” and an
Msnbc political analyst.
And Howard Dean; former chairman of the Democratic Party and former
governor of Vermont, he`s an Msnbc political analyst. Ben Shapiro, tell us
about your former boss, who is now the new boss of the Trump campaign.
BENJAMIN SHAPIRO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, DAILY WIRE: Steve is a very volatile
character. I mean, he`s somebody who I`m not sure there are a lot of
people who have dealt with Steve who have not been screamed at by Steve.
But you know, that`s sort of beside the point.
Steve really is just a mirror image of Trump. The Titanic seems to be
going down, and Trump is looking for the nearest mirrors, so that he can
make sure that his hair looks good for the cameras.
Breitbart has been a Trump (INAUDIBLE), as I said when I quit back in
March, for months now, and Steve Bannon was at the head of that, all the
while presumably maintaining to a lot of the people he was working with
that he was not in fact working with or for Donald Trump.
It`s worthwhile mentioning here that Kellyanne Conway who seems like a
genuinely decent person, Kellyanne Conway was the spokesperson for the
The Mercer(ph) family was the lead investor in Breitbart, and they are also
presumably putting some money into Trump`s Super PAC.
That has something to do with what`s going on here. You know, when it
comes to – when it comes to what Bannon is going to do for the campaign.
I think that you know, Bannon intends to be a Svengali figure who looks for
the nearest political celebrity, latches on to that political celebrity,
rides the political celebrity like a horse until the horse collapses
beneath him, and then moves on to the next political celebrity to take
I don`t think that it`s top priority for Bannon that Trump win. I think
that he`s already achieved his goal simply by being put this high up in the
If Trump wins, then he gets to be in the White House and he gets to – he
gets all the perks and I get audited by the IRS presumably.
And if Trump loses, then Bannon just moves along with Trump and the
Breitbart site, which has grown exponentially over the last few months,
thanks to their Trump support and thanks to pandering to the all right.
And they built a new media empire together, that would be my speculation in
O`DONNELL: Robert Costa, what does this mean for Paul Manafort?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Paul Manafort
remains part of the Trump campaign, he is retaining his title as campaign
chairman and chief strategist. But his strategy, the argument he made to
Trump that`s fading within Trump`s inner circle.
That was to professionalize the operation and in a very straightforward way
to become more disciplined, more partisan, more Republican in presentation.
In moving towards Bannon, you have someone who not only is new to the
national presidential scene, but is really a non-partisan figure. He`s
ideological, populist, nationalist in his viewpoints.
But he`s not associated with the Republican Party, and he shares Trump`s
temperament in many ways, someone who enjoys a bare knuckle brawl, who`s
O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, did you have something to do with this? Is this a
Democratic plan to get Steve Bannon in there as a Trump twin running the
Trump campaign? Is this kind of – is this exactly what the Democrats would
have liked today?
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: Well, I mean, it`s hard to – not to
conclude that this is helpful.
But since – as you know, I have frequently said I`ve been wrong for 52
weeks in a row about what`s going to happen with Donald Trump, so, I think
I think, you know, Breitbart is essentially a propagandist outfit. They
are somewhat outlandish, but they`re successful with their audience.
And so he is picking a clone of himself. I think all pretense of actually
having an on-the-ground operation that`s going to get the vote out has gone
out the window.
I think it`s just fascinating to me to see – there was one piece in one of
the papers, an opinion piece, it said this is what it`s going to
essentially drive the RNC away and have them now make their final
commitment to abandoning Trump and trying to save the Senate and the house.
That`s not implausible at this point.
O`DONNELL: Robert –
SHAPIRO: Well –
O`DONNELL: Robert Costa, what about that? The reaction of professional
Republicans in Washington.
COSTA: In 1996, we saw the Republican Party move away from Bob Dole when
his poll numbers began to dip. But I think this situation is different.
I spoke to Sean Spicer, the chief strategist for the Republican National
Committee today, he said he`s in touch via phone and e-mail with Bannon.
He`s talking with the Trump campaign. Reince Priebus continues to travel
on the campaign trail with Trump, giving him full-throated endorsements
about the party and its support for him both financially and politically.
But the pressure is coming from Capitol Hill. If you`re a vulnerable
Senate strategist, if you`re a vulnerable candidate in the house, this is
the time where – with Bannon and his association with Breitbart, they`re
talking today to me and to other reporters about this is an out, an exit
ramp on the highway if you were looking to distance yourself from Trump.
But the party itself –
SHAPIRO: Although –
COSTA: The RNC remains with Trump.
SHAPIRO: Yes, I actually think –
COSTA: Yes –
DEAN: And I think that`s – it`s not the same as Dole because Trump has a
constituency that`s not inside the Republican Party. If they abandon Trump
entirely, they can`t afford to lose the 15 or 20 or 25, 30 percent of the
electorate that`s with Trump.
O`DONNELL: Ben –
SHAPIRO: It`s also not the same as Dole because the fact is that Bob Dole
actually cared if Republicans lost the Senate. Donald Trump has said that
he really doesn`t. So, if the Republicans start to pull –
COSTA: That`s a good point –
SHAPIRO: Away from Donald Trump, then Donald Trump simply says, OK, I`m
going to stop raising money for the RNC.
All the money disappears, and now you`re really stuck between a rock and a
hard place. This is the problem with the RNC having gone along with this
ridiculous candidacy from the very outset.
And now the fact that Trump has basically made the head of his own fan club
the new campaign manager and this is supposed to be some sort of campaign
And, you know, this is – this is a website that five minutes ago was
campaigning heartily against the Speaker of the house Paul Ryan and in
favor of the contender that ended up getting shellacked in that – in that
particular house primary race.
So, this is obviously a move by Trump to double down. I thought that – I
thought Charlie Sykes of Wisconsin had a great tweet today. He said this
looks like a campaign on hospice care, he`s dying, he`s just looking to
surround himself with friends and family.
O`DONNELL: Ben, tell people working in the Trump campaign tonight and the
Trump family, what can – what they can expect now with Steve Bannon in
their offices and in their lives every day.
SHAPIRO: Well, I mean, I think – I think they can expect what they are
probably getting from Trump himself, except more volatile. I mean, Steve
Bannon interpersonally tends to be a bully, and he tends to be an
He yells a lot. None of that is any great shock. I don`t think that
Bannon is going to be –
O`DONNELL: Hey, Ben, can I stop – can I stop –
SHAPIRO: Level of campaign is the truth –
O`DONNELL: Ben, can you stop you for a second? Can I stop you for a
second, imagine –
SHAPIRO: Sure –
O`DONNELL: This bully you described and working under a bigger bully,
Donald Trump. How is that – how is that going to work?
SHAPIRO: Again, I don`t believe it`s any great shock. I mean, the fact is
that Donald Trump has surrounded himself with the very best people
including folks like Paul Manafort who obviously has a shady past, and Cory
Lewandowski, who had problems with, you know, various allegations of
grabbing reporters of Breitbart.
And he surrounds himself with the very best people, by which I mean people
he likes, people he trusts but not necessarily people who are going to tell
him to do the right thing.
But honestly at this point, I`m not sure what Trump – what choice Trump
has. I mean, if you look at Trump`s campaign right now, Trump – his
biggest problem is that he is Donald Trump. And he is not going to turn
into Mitt Romney nor should he attempt to.
And I think what Bannon is probably whispering in his ear at this point is
he`s just saying, you know, Donald, just be yourself, be yourself.
Now, presumably Trump goes down in flames, if Trump is himself since he`s
been doing that for weeks now and it`s not working –
O`DONNELL: There`s –
SHAPIRO: But for Bannon it works out beautifully because he gets to be the
good guy who told Trump to just be free and fly little bird –
O`DONNELL: Well, go ahead, Robert –
COSTA: Lawrence, I`ve known and covered Steve Bannon for about six, seven
years. And he has this belief, and I`m sure Ben`s heard it that populism
is on the rise. He embraced Sarah Palin in 2008 through 2011 when she was
thinking about a White House bid.
He has always seen this grassroots nationalistic populism as the future of
the Republican Party. And so people who spoke to him today tell me that he
thinks this is the career moment for him.
He has – he has suddenly seen his world view consume the actual Republican
Party with his hands on the steering wheel, and he thinks for the next 80
days, he cannot only advise Trump, but try to change the fundamental part
of the Republican Party.
The soul of the Republican Party towards this Breitbart-type Republicanism.
O`DONNELL: Robert, quickly before we go, what are you hearing about morale
inside the Trump campaign?
COSTA: Those who think Trump needs to be more Trump, they`re happy with
the addition of Bannon. They think Conway could help in some swing states,
especially with some female voters.
But the Manafort wing, they think they did all they could to put forward
their strategy and that they acknowledged privately that it didn`t click.
It probably could never click, Trump would always be Trump. And they`re
still resigned to that, but they`re not exactly looking to quit, they`ll
hang on for at least some time.
O`DONNELL: Robert Costa, Ben Shapiro, Howard Dean, thank you all for
joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
COSTA: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. The new Trump campaign bosses claim they have a
plan for victory and their plan has already leaked. That`s next in the war
room, Michael Steele will check their homework and see if their plan has a
And Walter Isaacson will join us to discuss Donald Trump`s first
intelligence briefing, and you all know Walter is the author of the huge
bestseller-turned movie “Steve Jobs”.
He`s also the author of a biography of Henry Kissinger and has studied the
operations of our national security intelligence apparatus. That`s coming
O`DONNELL: Months ago, Donald Trump said he had a secret 15-state strategy
for winning the White House. His new campaign team had a secret 5-state
strategy which stayed secret for a few minutes before it was leaked.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s campaign war room, there`s a new plan inside
the Trump campaign war room to target five states.
Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway will now target Ohio, Florida, North
Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia according to the “Washington Post”.
Here`s what the latest polls show in those five states. In Ohio, Hillary
Clinton is ahead by 4 points. In Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania,
Hillary Clinton is ahead by 9 points. The same number, 9 points in all of
And in Virginia, Hillary Clinton is ahead by 11 points in the latest poll.
The Trump campaign has been outspent $61 million to zero in television ad
spending, something Donald Trump of course claims to feel great about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I feel great about our position right now. I haven`t spent 10
cents, I haven`t spent 10 cents. I raised $82 million last month, we`ve
got a lot of money in the bank and I haven`t spent any of it.
She spent way over a $100 million on negative ads on me and I`m fairly
close. So, I think we`re going to do very well and we`re going to actually
start doing ads over the next few days. I think we have some pretty good
ads, and we`ll see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us tonight on the LAST WORD war room is Michael Steele,
he`s the former chairman of the Republican Party and an Msnbc political
Michael, first of all, just to start off, any prediction on when the next
Trump campaign shake-up will be?
When will we get the next new campaign manager?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Thirty six
O`DONNELL: OK –
STEELE: Let`s check that –
O`DONNELL: So, Michael, you look at these five states that the new team
wants to concentrate on. First of all, let`s just put aside for a moment,
would those five states do the trick, given all the trouble that there is
all over the map.
He`s down in every one of these states. He has a – it looks like there`s
a shot in Ohio –
STEELE: Yes –
O`DONNELL: According to these polls, but what do you make of the plan?
STEELE: Well, you know, I think it`s an interesting one. Of the – of the
list of five, I think probably the one that`s going to be the most
problematic short-term will be Virginia.
Just because of the political dynamics in that state with the Democrat
governor and a lot of the changes that have been going on in the state as a
But here`s the interesting takeaway for me at this point. Go back and
listen to what you said. Hillary Clinton has spent $61 million-plus at
this point, Donald Trump has spent zero. Arguably, he`s had the worst six
weeks you can imagine in politics and yet he`s only down by nine in
Pennsylvania, down by nine in Ohio.
You know, so, the fact of the matter is, there is still room for his
runway, if you will, to make the case, which is why the – you know,
bringing on these two new players in Bannon and Conway is going to be very
I see a marrying going on here. Letting Trump be Trump and now having
someone with the operational skill sets, the messaging skill sets and the
technical skill sets required on the ground to help the campaign get its
footing in those key states in the form of Kellyanne Conway.
Coming, bringing all that together while – I look at it this way, put it
this way. You know how firemen light a fire to control a fire?
Well, that`s what you`re looking at here. These folks are going to be
coming into this, the next phase of this campaign, letting Trump be Trump.
That`s the fire that they`re going to light while Kellyanne tries to
control that fire on the ground.
O`DONNELL: Michael, what about Steve Bannon, who has absolutely no
experience in any campaign work at all? I didn`t hear you identify a role
for him in all of this.
STEELE: Well, here it is. It`s the same one that you saw with Cory
Lewandowski who won the primary, by the way, with no political experience,
first time running a national campaign for the presidency, let alone any
So, Bannon will be the muse. Bannon will be the guy who will be in that
space to sort of help Trump, you know, sort of channel that inner Trump, if
you will. I don`t know if – and I do not suspect quite honestly,
Lawrence, that he`s going to be managing the campaign.
That is very clearly been laid out for Kellyanne to do. She will be the
manager. She will be on the plane, on the road, in the car, in the ear of
Donald Trump throughout the course of the rest of this campaign.
But Bannon is going to play a different role. He`s going to be able to
help finesse this side of Trump that Trump really wants to continue with.
Because 7-year-old, he`s not going to change, and you`re right about that.
So, how do you manage that fire? How do you manage that passion? How do you
manage those potential mistakes downstream as you get closer to this
election? The hope is that Bannon does that.
O`DONNELL: I would recommend not having a candidate who is on fire, so, I
don`t have to set him –
On fire or something like that – Michael Steele, thank you very much for
joining us tonight, really appreciate it –
STEELE: All right, buddy.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. Donald Trump received his first intelligence
briefing today, Walter Isaacson will join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You trust intelligence?
TRUMP: Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our
country. I mean, look what`s happened over the last ten years. Look
what`s happened over the years.
I mean, it`s been catastrophic. And in fact, I won`t use some of the
people that are sort of your standards. You know, just use them, use them,
use them, very easy to use them.
But I won`t use them because they`ve made such bad decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Donald Trump saying he doesn`t trust American
intelligence, saying it this morning before receiving his first briefing,
intelligence briefing as the Republican presidential nominee.
Donald Trump brought Governor Chris Christie along with him, along with
former – with retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.
General Flynn was the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which
means he was one of the people who Donald Trump said this morning was doing
a bad job analyzing U.S. intelligence.
Since retiring, General Flynn has grown close to Vladimir Putin, to the
point of literally sitting next to him at a banquet in Moscow, hosted by
Russian television, which is a Russian government-funded television network
with programming in English for American viewers and English speakers
around the world.
As reported by the “Washington Post”, General Flynn was paid to speak at
that event in Russia. Before the intelligence briefing today in a federal
building in Manhattan, Donald Trump held a mock cabinet meeting in Trump
Tower with Donald Trump sitting in what would be the president`s seat in
the cabinet room with General Flynn at his side.
Everyone in the room could calculate their importance to Donald Trump as
people do in the real cabinet room by their distance from the man in the
Paul Manafort was seated as far away as he could be at the table from
Donald Trump, now that he has been demoted after the “New York Times”
reported finding a ledger in Ukraine listed $12.7 million in cash payments
to Paul Manafort.
Today, the “Associated Press” reported that Paul Manafort could face
possible criminal charges for not disclosing that he acted as a foreign
agent for the president of Ukraine and the president`s political party.
Joining us now, Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute
and the author of the bestselling biographies “Steve Jobs” and “Henry
Kissinger”, “Benjamin Franklin”.He is also the former editor of “Time
Walter, especially on the Kissinger book and when you were running “Time”
magazine, you were working, poring over details of the way intelligence
operations work and national security issues, the aspen institute. You do
this all the time.
I just want to get – what I just read was an inconceivable introduction to
a political discussion during a presidential campaign anytime prior to now.
Russian possible influence in a variety of ways, including e-mail hacks now
of the Democratic Party. Put all this together for us. What should we be
WALTER ISAACSON, PRESIDENT, THE ASPEN INSTITUTE: You know, I don`t think
we`ve ever seen this type of thing before, ever since Harry Truman started
the process of intelligence briefings. This is the first time you`ve had
somebody – two people really close to a candidate who have been paid
apparently by pro-Russian groups, pro-Russian groups in the Ukraine and
then Russia Today, the TV station. They`re getting intelligence briefings.
And that candidate has called upon Russia to hack our election system.
Now, you know, put yourself – do a thought experiment. If you`d had a
Democratic candidate who was getting the support of Russia and calling upon
Russia to hack the opponents, there would be an outrage.
I`m always very confused when people talk about very conservative or right-
wing people on the Trump campaign. This does not seem even conservative by
any conceivable stretch. I don`t know why people keep using that word.
When you`re so pro Russia, anti-NATO, anti-free, you know, markets, all the
things Republicans have stood for. So, this to me is an odd historical
anomaly, especially when it comes to all of the money that may even – I
wish Mr. Trump would release his finances.
But all of the money that perhaps has gone to fund his loans or refinance
his loans. You know, pretty credible reports that some of it`s come from
Russian oligarchs. So, I`m totally baffled about how this has not caused
O`DONNELL: Yes. It`s – well, one of the things is there`s so much to be
outraged about on a given day, including really personal things like
attacking a Gold Star family, that sort of thing. And so that when you
have something like this that would be the central kind of scandal fodder
of any previous presidential campaign, it almost is possibly too
complicated for people.
ISAACSON: Well, also it becomes very partisan. You know, if this had been
happening on the Democratic side, a Democrat had been supporting Russia and
had all these advisers who were being paid by Russia and then was calling
on Russia to hack the Republican Party and then using that information to
hurt Republicans, you know, Democrats might rally around that person or
But this shouldn`t be a partisan issue. You know, at the Aspen Institute,
we do a lot on figuring out cyber security, what type of cyber doctrines we
need to have. And there`s been talk in the intelligence community and the
policy community of what are critical infrastructures? Like if Russia
attacked the electricity grid during peace time, is that an act of war?
It`s been pretty much decided that yes, the electricity grid, critical
infrastructure, so that attack would be an act of war. Just as if they had
sent a missile and it hit the homeland.
I do think, and we`re moving in that direction, that our election
infrastructure, our democracy –
O`DONNELL: Has the intelligence community been anticipating this? Have
they been anticipating the possibility of hacking the Democratic Party or
Republican Party or presidential candidates?
ISAACSON: Yes. I think that there`s been a worry about the security of
O`DONNELL: They`re obviously thinking about it now. But were they
thinking about it –
ISAACSON: But they`ve also been thinking about it. China as you know, has
hacked probably the office of personnel management, those type of things.
And you can imagine China hacking the Trump campaign. At which point, this
would at least become a non-partisan issue.
Both parties would agree, oh, hacking our electoral system in order to
support one of the candidates is a really bad thing and we should retaliate
if it happens.
O`DONNELL: You know the foreign policy establishment well in both parties.
You know the intelligence community well. We have heard publicly from many
Republicans that they will not vote for Donald Trump. Many Republicans in
foreign policy, national defense work.
There are some conspicuous silences. We haven`t heard from Colin Powell.
We haven`t heard from Condoleezza Rice. We haven`t heard from Henry
ISAACSON: Yes, I would think that Secretary Colin Powell would probably
come out at some point and say he`s for Hillary Clinton. It`s pretty
clear. I also think that whether it`s Condoleezza Rice and some others,
they`re just going to keep their silence.
There`s really, you know, no up side for them to come out. And they
probably want to be part of the rebuilding of the Republican party if Mr.
Trump losses. So I think they`re making the calculus that just staying
silent sort of going –
O`DONNELL: What about the Kissinger question? I was in New Hampshire and
I heard bill Clinton tell an audience that Henry Kissinger says that
Hillary Clinton ran the State Department masterfully. And Henry Kissinger
got big applause with a Democratic audience in New Hampshire. And I then
tweeted about that and suddenly the Clinton campaign stopped talking about
Henry Kissinger. So, it`s possible –
ISAACSON: You know –
O`DONNELL: – she doesn`t want to hear from Kissinger or do they?
ISAACSON: Well, I think that Secretary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, has been
pretty close, friendly with Henry Kissinger. They have a pretty strategic
worldview that is closer to each other than it is to Donald Trump, who`s at
the other end of the spectrum when it comes to a worldview like that. I
don`t know that it`s in either Henry Kissinger`s interests or Hillary
Clinton`s interests for there to be an endorsement.
And as Kissinger once said of (INAUDIBLE), you don`t have permanent
friends, you don`t have permanent enemies, you only have permanent
O`DONNELL: Can we imagine a phone call from Bill Clinton to Secretary
Kissinger saying thank you for your support, let`s keep it quiet?
ISAACSON: No, no. I think it`s easy enough for people to know when to
keep quiet about it. Although I would – I`m going to say something
controversial. But if Henry Kissinger said I prefer Hillary Clinton I
think it helps Hillary Clinton.
O`DONNELL: In the general election with that undecided vote.
ISAACSON: Well, I`m not going to play the politics of it. But in my own
mind Henry Kissinger`s still one of the smartest people we ever had.
O`DONNELL: Walter Isaacson, the smartest person we have around right here.
ISAACSON: No, no, Lawrence, that`s you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Donald and I along with Melania and
Mary Pat have been friends for over a decade. He has been a good and loyal
friend to our family, as we have been to he and his family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here`s what Chris Christie`s good and loyal friend said about
him a few months earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The George Washington Bridge, he
knew about it. Hey. How do you have breakfast with people every day of
your lives? They`re closing up the largest bridge in the world, the
biggest in the United States, traffic flowing during rush hour. People
couldn`t get across for six, seven hours, ambulances, fire trucks.
They`re with him all the time, the people that did it. They never said,
hey, boss, we`re closing up the George Washington Bridge tonight? No, they
never said that. They`re talking about the weather, right?
Then – so he knew about it. He knew about it. Totally knew about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Totally knew about it, so much for Chris Christie`s good and
loyal friend, although Chris Christie has been very good and loyal to
When is the last time you paid $500 in income taxes? It was probably in
your last paycheck when your taxes were automatically withheld, $500 was
the total amount of income tax the Trump Taj Mahal Casino paid the state of
New Jersey in 2003.
At the same time, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino lied to the casino commission
by saying that it had paid $2.2 million. This is the kind of thing that
was revealed in multiple bankruptcy filings for all the Trump casinos in
New Jersey, which led the state of New Jersey to recalculate the Trump
casino`s tax date to the state to be $29.4 million. Trump claimed the
bankrupt casinos could not pay that tax debt, which was continuing to
increase with interest.
And then the collapsing Trump casino empire got very, very lucky. Chris
Christie was elected governor of New Jersey. Donald Trump had contributed
heavily to Christie. Donald Trump also made large donations for the
maintenance of the governor`s mansion in New Jersey. All the while, Donald
Trump was negotiating with the state of New Jersey to reduce his tax debt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I pay as little as possible. I fight like hell to pay as little as
possible, for two reasons. Number one, I`m a businessman and that`s the
way you`re supposed to do it and you put the money back into your company
and employees and all of that. But the other reason is that I hate the way
our government spends our taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes, he didn`t put the money back into his bankrupt companies.
After negotiations with the Christie administration, the Trump $30 million
tax debt in New Jersey was settled for just $5 million.
A bankruptcy expert told “The New York Times”, “You can`t tell whether
there`s something problematic but it`s pretty striking that this one was
written down so much.” Governor Christie`s office issued this statement
today, “Governor Christie had no knowledge of our involvement in the
routine settlement of this matter.”
He knew nothing about it. Exactly what he said about the lane closures on
the George Washington Bridge. And someone who knows Chris Christie well
told us not to believe Chris Christie when he says he knew nothing about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The George Washington Bridge, he knew about it. He knew about it.
Totally knew about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is THE LAST WORD on campaign 2016.
O`DONNELL: And it`s intern night again here on THE LAST WORD. This is the
last night for our other summer intern, Hank Butler.
Hank is head back to Trinity College in Connecticut for his senior year. I
feel like, Hank, I should call you Henry because I heard your mother called
HANK BUTLER, SUMMER INTERN: OK, we don`t need to tell the world that right
O`DONNELL: You`re going to be hank to the world from now on.
O`DONNELL: You had the most difficult job any intern has ever had in the
history of THE LAST WORD.
BUTLER: Now, what is that, sir?
O`DONNELL: You actually had to manage me personally for two weeks when
Christina was away and no one thought you could survive that. You did.
You are a hero among interns.
BUTLER: Thank you, sir.
O`DONNELL: And it was the worst thing you`ve ever had to do, right?
BUTLER: That`s not true.
O`DONNELL: Oh, come on.
BUTLER: No, that`s not true. I would tell you.
O`DONNELL: It`s a crazy job. The worst job in the building.
BUTLER: That`s not true.
O`DONNELL: Hank, here`s the fun job in the building.
O`DONNELL: And that is doing a little teleprompter read.
O`DONNELL: Show Donald Trump how it`s done. You can get us to “on the
O`DONNELL: So take it away.
BUTLER: All right. Here`s how it looked today on the campaign trail.
O`DONNELL: Perfect. Natural. Nothing to it.
Thank you, Hank.
BUTLER: Thank you.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There are just 83 days left in
this election. I keep track of them. Cross them off.
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It`s change versus the
status quo and the American people are going to vote for real change this
time when we make Donald Trump our next president.
CLINTON: He can hire and fire anybody he wants from his campaign. They
can make him read new words from a teleprompter.
There is no new Donald Trump. This is it.
PENCE: The American people long for government as good as our people. And
yet, the other party has literally nominated somebody who personifies the
failed establishment in Washington, D.C.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell Mr. Trump make a joke out of Hillary`s lying like
this. Call her Pinocchio.
CLINTON: Friends don`t let friends vote for Trump.
PENCE: Donald Trump`s got a plan, putting common sense conservative
principles into practice, which work every time you try it.
CLINTON: Anyone waiting for Donald Trump to suddenly become more
responsible, when someone shows you who they are, believe them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Issue one: Bush trounces Buchanan. Super Tuesday is
clobber Buchanan day. Now that Bush has scraped Buchanan off his shoe,
will his platform be affected even one iota by the views of Pat Buchanan?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, John, I think I made significant inroads into the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wrong! Freddie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, while I think pat ran a decent campaign –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wrong!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Last week, John McLaughlin did something he had never done
before in the 34-year history of “The McLaughlin Group”. He didn`t show
up. He wasn`t feeling well enough. But he did provide the voice-over for
some of the taped elements of the show.
Long-time panelist Pat Buchanan guided the show in John`s absence.
Television was John McLaughlin`s third career. He started off as a Jesuit
priest, teaching at Catholic high schools in New England.
Then, he transitioned to politics, ran for the United States Senate in
Rhode Island while still a priest. He ran as an anti-war Republican, anti-
Vietnam War, and lost to the incumbent Democrat.
He then found work as a speechwriter in the Nixon White House under his
then boss, Pat Buchanan. In 1980, John tried doing a radio call-in show,
but according to “The Washington Post” was fired, quote, “for talking too
much and taking too few calls.”
In 1982, when John started “The McLaughlin Group”, I couldn`t have cared
less about politics. Nothing could get me to watch “Meet the Press” then,
but I watched “The McLaughlin Group” for the same reason “Saturday Night
Live” writers did, because it was funny, because it was something we had
never seen before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CILP)
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, TV HOST: Most memorable moment in Bush`s 500 days. Pat
PAT BUCHANAN: I think when the Berlin Wall came down and he was seated
there and the cameras came in and he gave that sort of laid-back response.
MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, well, you`re shading that in his favor. I mean, that has
to be the euphemism of the year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I grew up in Irish Boston where I had never met a Republican.
In my mind, all Republicans were drawn in the gloomy image and likeness of
Richard Nixon. And there on “The McLaughlin Group”, for the first time in
my life, I saw Republicans laugh. I didn`t know they did that.
Republicans John McLaughlin and Pat Buchanan would get into arguments with
liberal Eleanor Clift and it could get hot and it could get very angry but
at some point, there would always be laughter. Always.
At “The McLaughlin Group” peak, John had the highest-rated political talk
show in the country because he had people like me watching who didn`t care
about politics. TV executives wanted a piece of the McLaughlin magic.
They entertained countless pitches from people who wanted to create a show
that they all said would be “The McLaughlin Group” about everything. That
was the pitch, “The McLaughlin Group” about everything.
I personally was asked to help out on a few pilots for networks where the
pitch was simply that, “The McLaughlin Group” about everything. None of
those shows went anywhere. Until Bill Maher got “Politically Incorrect” on
Comedy Central complete with Bill`s version of the McLaughlin set – Bill
in the middle seat and two guests on each side of him, joking and arguing
about the issues of the day. Not just the political issues. And Bill is
still doing that on HBO.
Much of the programming on cable news networks is built on the John
McLaughlin idea that the host could have an opinion and that reporters on
the show could have opinions and that they could disagree and they could
laugh, just like people in bars and kitchen tables everywhere.
I joined “The McLaughlin Group” as a regular panelist in the 1990s. I used
to sit in that chair right there, to John`s right.
John always had the same complaint about me. He would corner me in the
hallway before the show and say, “Last week`s transcript shows that you had
the lowest word count in the show and every letter, every e-mail we get
about you says, we want to hear more from O`Donnell, we want to hear more
from O`Donnell.” And I would say the same thing every time. I`d say,
“John, why would I ever want the letters and e-mail to say anything else?”
And he never got it. The one thing that John never understood was the
power of silence. So after that complaint he always walked away from me
just saying, “Just keep talking this week, just keep talking.”
John could be difficult, but I never saw that side of him. I know some
panelists and staff members had real problems with John. But by the time I
arrived, I think maybe he had mellowed a bit. And I for one never had a
difficult moment with him.
The only thing he ever complained to me about was my word count, and he had
that twinkle in his eye when he was saying it, even though he was trying to
sound like John McLaughlin the TV character.
Thanks to John, I`m in a Hirschfeld, a drawing by the legendary Broadway
cartoonist Al Hirschfeld. Before his death in 2003, Al Hirschfeld`s
drawings of Broadway stars graced the pages of the “New York Times” for
decades and the covers of playbills.
Al Hirschfeld was not in the business of drawing the casts of TV shows,
least of all political talk shows. But John paid top dollar, a price no
other television show would pay, to get the great Al Hirschfeld`s rendition
of “The McLaughlin Group.” and he did it three times. Each time there was
a major cast change in the show.
Here`s my Hirschfeld, on “The McLaughlin Group” mug. I`m the guy at the
bottom. I had a bit more hair than that. But I guess al Hirschfeld wanted
us to have something that would last well into my balding years.
John spent all that money on those Hirschfelds not just for his own vanity
but because he was the first to see that Broadway, show business had
something to teach Washington. And in his day, John was Washington`s
John McLaughlin died yesterday at the age of 89. Broadway has a tradition
when one of the great stars of the theater passes away. All Broadway
theaters dim their lights for a minute.
Tonight, we dim our lights for the first big star of political talk – John
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: What is extreme vetting and what does that mean
and how do you – how do you possibly vet what`s in their heart?
TRUMP: Right. Well, let me just tell you. You get very smart people.
And there are those people. And they`re very good at understanding what`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s it. You just get very smart people. You know, like the
Trump campaign people or Sean Hannity. Smart people.
That`s it for “THE LAST WORD.” Joy Reid is up next with our live coverage.
Good evening, Joy, if you`re there.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Ooh, it`s hard to read that.
Oh, hi. How are you? Hey, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We`re ready to start your show a few seconds early, joy. They
told me they warned you.
REID: They did. But you know what? Sometimes the bright lights shining
in my eyes goes directly through to the brain. It begins to fry the
O`DONNELL: You might be working too hard.
REID: Just possibly.
O`DONNELL: Should I come up there and help out?
REID: You should. Come on up, Lawrence.
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